New Botox Advertising Regulations

Enforcement Notice

We all know that the ASA released new Botox advertising regulations back in January 2020, but do you know what this means for you and your clinic in practical terms? Botulinum toxin is a prescription-only medicine (POM), and this means there are specific rules on how and where you can advertise treatments, including the toxin.

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The regulation was, in fact, not a novel one and was actually an enforcement notice of preexisting ASA regulation 12:12 which states:

“Prescription-only medicines (POM) or prescription-only medical treatments may not be advertised to the public.”

The ASA Compliance team sent the Enforcement Notice to remind clinics and practitioners that they should be complying with this rule and give them the opportunity to remove any reference of Botulinum toxin from their advertising before they take more targeted enforcement action on social media.

Do The New Botox Advertising Regulations Only Apply To Botox?

Botox is the leading and most trusted and brand of the botulinum toxin but the rule enforcement also applies to ALL ‘prescription-only’ botulinum toxin injectables, which includes Botox and other brands such as Vistabel, Azzalure, Bocouture, and Dysport. In fact, it applies to all POM. It is noteworthy that this regulation does not apply to other injectable cosmetic treatments such as dermal fillers because they are not POM.

Do The New Botox Advertising Regulations Only Apply To Social Media?

Regulation 12.12 applies to ALL marketing material and advertising which includes posters, leaflets, newspaper & magazine ads, and adverts on your own websites. However, the ASA has placed particular focus on social media with this enforcement because this seems to be the most common platform currently where practitioners and clinics breach the POM advertising rules.

Can I Still Refer To Botox Treatments On My Website?

Within very narrow parameters, yes, you can. To fully adhere to rule 12:12 you need to make it very clear that you are advertising a consultation process rather than the Botox product. Therefore it should not be easy for anyone to stumble upon information about POM and any references should be incidental, balanced, and factual. In practical terms, this means that:

  • Your homepage may include references to a “wrinkle treatment consultation” or similar.
  • The wrinkle treatment link must emphasise that you offer a consultation with a variety of treatment options (assuming that is the case). 
  • You must properly emphasise the consultation, and only make incidental, balanced, and factual references to Botox as a possible treatment option.
  •  Make it clear that following the consultation process this may or may not lead to the provision of Botox. 
  • You could also go one step further and require a click through to the treatment options, where you make only balanced and factual references to Botox or include a price list with an incidental reference to Botox alongside its price.
  • It is important that Botox references are not given any prominence and that you keep all information factual rather than promotional.

Can I Mention Botox And Botox Offers On My Price List?

If it is included on a genuine ‘price list’ that is clearly intended for patient information with no other details or promotional content, then that would acceptable provided that it isn’t posted on any of your social media, mailed to prospective customers or placed in any paid-for advertising space.

However, mentioning the price on your website is more complicated. If you mention the price on the homepage or include a direct link to “Prices” which mentions Botox, this is unlikely to be acceptable. But, if clients can only get to the price list after going through a page promoting a consultation regardless of treatment, then this may be acceptable.

What is totally prohibited is advertising offers on Botox, even on a price list or your website, such as ‘buy two areas, get a third free/money off/limited time/refer a friend’. Offers such as these are a direct breach of the ASA Code and so should be avoided.

Can I Say ‘Anti-Wrinkle or ‘Wrinkle Relaxing’ Injections?
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Using the term ‘anti-wrinkle’ if you offer both prescription-only treatments like Botox and also non-prescription-only treatments like fillers may be acceptable, but you must ensure that nothing else in the advert implies that the term ‘injectables/injections’ refers exclusively to Botox.

For example, the ASA recommends referring to ‘anti-wrinkle injections’ or ‘anti-wrinkle treatments’ as a collective term for both the prescription-only and non-prescription-only treatments. But if you only offer prescription-only treatments, then the advice is to avoid advertising ‘anti-wrinkle injections,’ as it’s likely to be seen as a solely implied advert for a POM. Advertising non-prescription treatments such as dermal fillers as anti-wrinkle treatments are perfectly acceptable.

However, the term ‘wrinkle relaxing’ is not acceptable, and even if you sell both prescription-only treatments like Botox and also non-prescription-only treatments like fillers, the word ‘relaxing’ is likely to be understood as an implied reference to Botox and therefore should be avoided.

Should it occur that you only offer ‘non-prescription-only’ treatments, then as long as those treatments do actually ‘relax’ wrinkles and not just fill in the lines or improve the general appearance of the skin and you have actual evidence to prove this. Then it might be acceptable to use this claim in those circumstances, but you should proceed with some caution.

What Do The New Botox Advertising Regulations Advise About Using Before And After Pictures?

If you exclusively offer prescription-only treatments or the image shows a before and after of a client who has received Botox, then it should not be featured as it will likely be seen as an advert for the prescription-only treatment.

>However, if you offer both prescription-only treatments like Botox and also non-prescription only treatments like fillers, you are able to include images if they show someone who has received a non-prescription only treatment. It is imperative that you make sure explicitly that the photos relate to the non-prescription only treatment.

Using the image of a patient who has received Botox with claims that they received a non-prescription only treatment is deemed unacceptable because it is likely to be seen as materially misleading.

What Do The New Botox Advertising Regulations Say About Advertising Hyperhidrosis?

The ASA 12:12 regulation still applies and it is exactly the same whether you’re claiming to treat wrinkles or hyperhidrosis. You may not advertise this to the public and you need to take great care of how you approach it on your website.

If I Have Mentioned Botox In Previous Social Media Posts Should I Remove Them All?

The ASA Compliance team has claimed that they are primarily focused on ensuring that practitioners and clinics make the necessary changes going forward, post issuing the Enforcement Notice back in January 2020, but ideally clinics and practitioners should remove or amend any problematic posts that are current and easily visible without scrolling back very far.

If I Do Not Comply Or Miss A Post That Needs Amending, What Will Happen?

If the regulations are flouted and this is brought to the attention of the ASA they will refer it to the compliance team, who will be working with the various social media platforms to get offending posts removed. Should it occur that the rules are being repeatedly and deliberately flouted, they might involve the MHRA or your professional regulatory body.

You can find full guidance on the ASA website, and learn more about aesthetics or find training opportunities for Botox by heading to our courses page. To get in touch with one of our friendly team, simply head to our contact page!

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