Founders Louise Ferguson and Kate Cotton appeared on Dragons’ Den in 2013, presenting to the dragons with a trio of bikini-clad dancers in tow.
Their appearance ended with Ferguson and Cotton accepting £60,000 investment from Piers Linney and Kelly Hoppen for 10% of the business.
But PZ Cussons, owner of St Tropez spray tan, along with brands including Imperial Leather and Original Source, took exception to the messaging used by the brand in a Facebook post, seen last September, and a section on the Skinny Tan website, seen in January, and complained to the ASA on four grounds.
The Facebook post read:
UK Mum of two invents a new way to Tan [sic], tone and look thinner AND this summer it became the UKs [sic] No 1! No orange no streaking and no nasty smell! Skinny Tan is the first tanner to combine 100% certified natural tanning with organic smoothing oils and firming guarana berries.
The "Tanning Tips" page on the brand’s website, meanwhile, stated:
No matter what time of year it is "Tanning" is a fantastic way to help your body look instantly toned. It can hide cellulite and give you an all over healthier glow ... Look for the natural alternatives No-one should be putting chemical DHAs on their skin anymore as there are now tanners available that use a tanning agent that works naturally with your skin to create a far more natural looking colour.
A great advantage is that these natural agents don't smell so strongly of that awful fake tan smell. All Skinny Tan tanners are made with a seed tanner plus they also use naturally derived Guarana that together with the tan will help make cellulite look visibly smoother and less obvious.
The watchdog upheld the complaint on all grounds, deciding:
the claim to be "the UKs [sic] No 1" was misleading, as this was based on a specific set of data from a single retailer;
the ad gave the impression that the product did not contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the common active ingredient in tanning products, when in fact it did (though from natural sources);
the claim the product was "natural" was misleading, because the brand had not provided enough information about how it was manufactured; and
claims that the product had smoothing and firming effects on the skin, would make consumers look thinner and reduce the appearance of cellulite were not properly substantiated, and were misleading.
The ASA ordered that the ads not appear again in their current form.
Alex Watt, partner at law firm Browne Jacobson LLP, said: "This ruling is a victory for consumer protection and for accountability in advertising.
"The ASA has set a commendable industry precedent at a time when body shaming is one of the biggest and most sensitive issues facing the consumer beauty products market. It is good news for all consumers to see the regulator holding brands to account for making bold promotional claims they simply cannot substantiate."