- National Medical Products Administration (国家药品监督管理局) released a document on December 25th, 2019, named <Discerning illegal or false advertisement on cosmetics(识别化妆品违法宣称和虚假宣传)>.
- The document emphasized that brands cannot use inappropriate vocabulary in marketing and went on to suggest 10 examples.
1. Vocabulary with absolute connotation
- 速效(‘Instant’, used when an effect appears instantly)
- 超强(‘Intense’, used when an effect is strong or very effective)
- 特级(‘Ultra’, when the effect is super or outstanding)
- 去除皱纹(‘Anti-wrinkle’, used to imply erasing effect of wrinkles)
- Keywords such as 全方位、换肤 were mentioned as well
2. Misleading vocabulary
- If natural extract is a part of a product, the usage of the word 纯天然(100% natural) is regarded as misleading.
3. Exaggerative vocabulary
- 专业(‘Professional’) is only allowed to specialty stores(专业店).
- If a product that bears the name ‘professional’ is not something like hair dye or nail chemicals that only requires licensed professionals to handle, then it is considered exaggerative.
Figure2. Club Clio flagship store used the word ‘Professional eyeshadow(专业眼影)’
4. Medical terms
- Words that imply medical treatment in direct/indirect ways: 处方(prescription)、药用(medicinal)、治疗(treatment)、解毒(detoxification)、抗敏(anti-sensitivity)、除菌(bacterial removal)、无斑(stain/spot removal)、祛疤(scar removal)、生发(hair regeneration/growth)、溶脂(burn in fat)、瘦身(diet), and other skin problems or diseases
5. Names of doctors
- 扁鹊(Bian Que, Doctor from China’s warring states period)
- 华佗(Hua Tuo, Doctor from Post Han dynasty)
- 张仲景(Zhang Zhongjing, Doctor from Eastern Han dynasty)
- 李时珍(Li Shizhen, Doctor from Ming dynasty)
6. Ingredient name with copyright
- 肤螨灵霜(Cannot be used by other brands)
7. Irrelevant vocabulary that is hard to understand解码(Decoding), 数码(digital), 智能(smart, AI), 红外线(infrared light)
Figure3. PROYA and CHANDO used the keyword 智能防晒(smart sunblock) but now it’s deleted
8. Vulgar vocabulary
- 裸(Bare) cannot be used to describe a naked body(裸体), but can be used to refer to bare skin(裸妆)
9. Vocabulary with superstitious meaning
- Words such as 鬼、妖精、卦、邪、魂 are used to refer to superstitious figures such as ghosts, fairies, devils, and soul.
10. Vocabulary that is beyond specific range
- Cosmetics for special purpose(特殊用途化妆品) cannot advertise their product beyond the boundaries specified, and general cosmetics(非特殊用途化妆品, non-special purpose cosmetics) cannot advertise features that special purpose cosmetics have.
- The document merely gives a few examples, and for specific regulations, one should refer to the follow-up documents.
- At the end of November 2019, L’Oreal paid a fine of 200,000 yuan for false advertising, and the criteria for false advertising were based on the above documents. According to an interview with a lawyer published in Chinese media 南城都市报, consumers can report false advertisements directly. Based on Chinese Advertising Law, the fine can be as much as three times to five times the advertisement expenses, or somewhere between 200,000 and 1 million yuan.
- The regulation on false advertisement is expected to tighten even further. Since the usage of vocabulary is directly linked to marketing activities of brands, it is crucial to check these factors before the actual release of advertisements.