FTC Charges St Ives Labs with Deceptive Advertising
and Labeling of Its Skin Treatment Cream

Consent Agreement Settles Charges

FTC News Release
October 30, 1991

The Federal Trade Commission has charged that St. Ives Laboratories Inc. falsely and deceptively labeled and advertised that its "St. Ives A/Retinyl-A" skin treatment cream was, contained, or had the same effect as Retin-A, an anti-acne medication prescribed also for reducing wrinkles. Under a consent agreement to settle these charges announced today for public comment, St. Ives would be prohibited from falsely or deceptively marketing its skin products and pay $100,000 to the US Treasury.

In January 1988, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the prescription drug Retin-A is effective in removing wrinkles. In April 1988, St. Ives introduced a new "skin treatment" cream, sold over the counter, called "Retinyl A." Although St. Ives made some changes in its product design and name shortly thereafter, the company continued to claim that the product is a "breakthrough in skin care," that "daily use helps reduce the visible signs of aging," and that the product "provides a beneficial environment for skin's natural renewal process." Both the original label and the revised label contained the word "RETINYL" in black bold-faced type and a large red "A."

According to the complaint accompanying the agreement, St. Ives misled consumers into believing that its skin treatment cream is the same as, contains, or has the same wrinkle-removing effect as the prescription drug tretinoin, which is marketed under the trade name "Retin-A."

Under the proposed consent agreement, St. Ives would be prohibited from representing that its skin cream or any other non-prescription skin cream is, contains, or has the same wrinkle-removing effect as the prescription drug tretinoin; making any direct visual association between the terms "RETINYL" or "RETINOL" and "A"; or representing that its cosmetic products are, contain, or have the same effect as another manufacturer's prescription drug.

Further, St. Ives would be prohibited from representing that its skin product prominently featuring the words "RETINYL" or "RETINOL" on the package, is "new," that it is a "breakthrough," or "advance" in skin care, or that it "helps reduce the visible signs of aging," according to the proposed consent agreement.

The Commission vote was 4-0, with Commissioner Dennis A. Yao not participating.

St. Ives is based in Chatsworth, CA.

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