Beauty lawsuits you didn't know about
Can I start by saying how geeked out I am doing this article? It's probably going to be the longest article I've done. I'm a lawyer by profession - so coming across beauty lawsuits was pretty exciting! I came across one not so long ago then they just kept presenting themselves and I took it upon myself to compile them. If I'm being completely honest, this felt a bit like a research paper, lol. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I've enjoyed writing it!
Mario Badescu keeps steroid ingredients secret from consumers
Here are a few things you may or may have not known about the Mario Badescu skincare brand. Mario Badescu was in fact a real person, and the founder of the New York salon (that still exists today) and product line that was established in 1967. According to stories, he soon became one of the most popular estheticians in the city, famous for his gentle and effective approach to treating skin. Badescu sadly passed away in 1983 and was taken over by Morise Cabasso who is still the brand owner, along with Mario Badescu’s sons and three grandchildren. It’s a family brand, selling over 200 different ‘personalised’ skincare products for every skin concern imaginable.
The packaging is clean, green and it’s fair to say that the brand, is a household name. However, when you starting googling Mario Badescu, even if it is just to purchase the iconic drying lotion or aloe facial spray, you are faced with all sorts of questionable suggestions.
Could this be because of the 2009 lawsuit, of when the family-run company was called out for selling creams containing skin-thinning steroid ingredients? Thirty-one former customers filed a lawsuit against Mario Badescu after developing injury which they believed was a result of two steroid ingredients that were formulated into the brands Healing Cream and Control Cream – both products are now discontinued.
The worst part? These steroid ingredients, known as hydrocortisone and triamcinolone acetonide were NOT included on the product label. These ingredients have serious side effects including folliculitis, hypertrichosis (abnormal hair growth), acne eruptions, dermatitis, hypopigmentation, skin thinning, infection, and broken veins to name a few.
It was reported that the plaintiffs had no idea about the steroid they were using, and after using it daily for up to fourteen years, developed health complications including glaucoma, mood disorders, heart issues, elevated cortisol levels, adrenal system suppression and Cushing’s Syndrome.
In 2013, the Mario Badescu company finally agreed to settle claims for false advertising as they failed to disclose such toxic and harmful ingredients. The settlement covered anyone who purchased the product since February 15, 2009 and provides up to two $45 certificates that can be used on any of the brands products or spa treatment.
St Ives accused of causing micro-tears to skin
Say St. Ives to most people in the beauty world and there is an 80% chance of an eye roll due to cult ideology that abrasive scrubs can cause potential damage and sensitize the skin's surface. Despite all controversy, St. Ives Scrub is incredibly popular amongst people of all ages and the company swear it is the UK’s, and many other countries, ‘No. 1 scrub brand.’
In 2016, Kaylee Browning and Sarah Basile took on Unilever, the British-Dutch manufacturing giant behind St. Ives (and, the largest producer of soap in the world) for a couple of reasons. The two women believed that the iconic St. Ives Scrub was causing ‘micro-tears’ to the skin and clogging pores despite the product being labelled non-comedogenic. ‘America’s top face scrub’ was being sued for $5 million according to headlines, and the media relished it.
“Unfortunately for consumers, use of St. Ives as a facial exfoliant leads to long-term skin damage that greatly outweighs any potential benefits the product may provide,” read the statement.
The case dragged on for two years, and eventually tossed by the judge whom concluded there was a lack of evidence.
EOS Beauty balm sued for lip blistering
These iconic little balms are sold in pastel-coloured pods and come in all kinds of dreamy flavours, from mango melonade and green apple tonic to vanilla milk and honey almond. Founded in 2006, this cutesy NY company also sells other body products, like body lotions and shaving cream.
In 2016 the brand came under attack, when a story surfaced of a customer reaction lawsuit. The story went viral when Rachael Cronin, the plaintiff, bought an EOS balm at Target and posted on Facebook a series of photos showing painfully cracked, bleeding and blistering lips.
Many online responses followed from consumers that had similar experiences. Lawyer Mark Geragos who represented Rachael in court proceedings stated that:
“While boasting celebrity endorsements and magazine advertisements, and while making lofty representations regarding the health and curative effects of their lip balm products, EOS provides no warnings on its product, packaging, labelling, or anywhere on the website regarding health problems. These are caused by the mix and use of ingredients used in its products, and the lack of instruction regarding the appropriate amount of use of the product. In reality, EOS lip balm has caused a massive health crisis among purchasers for which EOS has been on notice of for a substantial period of time.”
Two years later the EOS lawsuit was settled. Affected consumers were eligible to receive either $75 for verified medical expenses, a $15 cash award, $20 worth of EOS products, or up to $4000 depending on their injuries, a Buzzfeed News report read. EOS later released an official statement to remind their loyal followers that their:
“…products are safe—and this settlement confirms that. Our lip balms are hypoallergenic, dermatologist tested, made with the highest quality ingredients, meet or exceed all safety and quality standards set by our industry, and are validated by rigorous safety testing conducted by independent labs. We love our customers and their enjoyment of our products is our top priority. We thank them for their continued support.”
Rodan & Fields Lash boost causes eye damage
Rodan+Fields is a skincare company founded by billionaire dermatologists Dr Katie Rodan and Dr Kathy Fields (also the founders of Proactiv), and can only be purchased from a Rodan+Fields consultant. This company is one of the most successful multi-level marketing companies, making most of its money from the sales of the people they recruit to sell such products. MLM companies are incredibly popular, despite the controversy of their cult-approach to recruiting, and promises of large profits when the chance of making reasonable amounts of money is impossible in such schemes.
According to Allure it costs a minimum of $45 to buy the DVD and instructions and start distribution with R+F, but most recruits opt for the $695 Big Launch Kit which includes samples and worksheets. If you take a look at Rodan+Fields Income Disclosure Statement for last year, they reported that of the Paid Consultants in 2019, approximately earned the following:
Top 1% were paid more than $26,096/annually
Top 10% were paid more than $4,327/annually
Top 50% were paid more than $466/annually
This tells us that over 50% of R+F consultants are actually losing money if they decide to opt for the Big Launch Kit. Becoming an Rodan+Fields consultant is a lot of time, money, unnecessary Facebook adverts and friends and family-hounding for pocket change. Making it ‘big’ in the company doesn’t even amount to the average American household income.
But that is not why Rodan+Fields has made this list, but because of court documents filed in April 2018 as a result of a reaction to the R+F $155 Lash Boost that is still on sale today. The documents read:
“Consumers of Lash Boost … have experienced serious side effects, including change(s) in iris color, eyelid drooping, itchy eyes, eye/lid discoloration, thinning and loss of eyelashes/loss of eyelash hair, eye sensitivity, eye infections, and vision impairment.”
The reason for this reaction is because the lash boosting product contains the same chemical as Allergan’s Latisse lash product, isopropyl cloprostenate. This ingredient is used to treat glaucoma and has a known history of causing inflammation around the sounding tissues. The issue lies that Allergan are open about the fact that this is a risk when using their product, whereas Rodan+Fields do not. The toxic ingredient was temporarily overlooked as R+F chose to market their product for cosmetic reasons and were not required to put the Lash Boost Eye serum through the FDA for review of medications.
Last year, the court ruled that the plaintiff’s 19 consumer claims in certain states can proceed to claim. Today when you go Rodan+Field’s website to find out how good this Lash Boost product really is, you are alerted of no such potential side effects. Instead it reads:
If you develop irritation or swelling, discontinue product usage. If irritation is significant, or in the first instance of any swelling, consult your physician. If you’re pregnant or nursing, being treated for any eye-related disorder, undergoing cancer treatment or prone to dry eyes or styes, consult your physician before use. If you notice irregularities in the appearance of lashes, discontinue use.
Johnson & Johnson paid out over $2.4 billion to ovarian cancer victims
Johnson & Johnson are an unstoppable multinational corporation founded in 1886 and has the world’s largest range of personal healthcare products. J&J provide skincare, oral care, baby care, wound care, women health’s products, medical devices for orthopaedics and surgeons and pharmaceutical drugs, and are the creator of one of the most famous personal products of all time: Baby Powder.
In 2018 Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $4.7bn in damages to 22 women who alleged that the Baby Powder they were using, was contaminated with asbestos which led to them developing ovarian cancer. Since the 70s, J&J failed to warn consumers about the risk, and sadly, 6 of the 22 women that were compensated have died from cancer.
Despite the enormous pay out, J&J still stands by the belief that talc does not cause cancer and say that numerous studies support such claims. On their website they state the ‘5 Important Facts about Talc’:
1) Talc has been used for centuries
2) Talc is more common than we think
3) Talc is safe
4) Talc has been studied by independent researchers
5) Talc does not cause cancer (according to the National Cancer Institute Physician Data Query Editorial board)
Talcum powder contains mostly talc, an ingredient that has been rigorously questioned since the 1960s. The FDA have explained that talc is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined from the earth, composed of magnesium, silicon, hydrogen and oxygen. Talc is used in cosmetics, foods such as rice and gum and in some tablets as it absorbs moisture, prevents a caking effect and helps to improve the appearance and feel of talc-based products or cosmetics. The FDA also point out on their website that:
“Published scientific literature going back to the 1960s has suggested a possible association between the use of powders containing talc and the incidence of ovarian cancer. However, these studies have not conclusively demonstrated such a link, or if such a link existed, what risk factors might be involved. The FDA has ongoing research in this area. In addition, questions about the potential contamination of talc with asbestos have been raised since the 1970s.”
Johnson & Johnson have reportedly faced over 16,000 US legal cases to date - all women whom believe the J&J’s talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer. Cases will undoubtedly rise in the next few years, especially now that they have been given the go-ahead to take their individual claims to court. Meanwhile new research continues to emerge providing conflicting arguments about whether or not the application of talc can contribute to the cause of ovarian cancer.
Avon & Estee Lauder face lawsuit over false cruelty-free claims
Two of the biggest cosmetic giants faced a $100 million lawsuit in 2012 as they misled consumers and labelled them entirely cruelty-free. At the time many countries, including the EU were in the process, if not had already passed the law, of banning the unnecessary testing of cosmetics on animals. However China is currently the only country in the world, that insists on cosmetic animal testing before products can go to market. This questionable law makes it impossible for cosmetic companies to sell products in China, without testing on animals first.
Because of these factors, a brand cannot claim they are ‘cruelty-free’ if they are selling to the Chinese market. This was the issue when 5 Californian women sought $100m in compensation from both Estee Lauder and Avon. Their lawyer, Michael Avenatti said:
“There is nothing forcing these companies to sell products in China, and if these brands don’t take a stand against inhumane policies, then nothing forces the policies to change. My clients purchased products believing the companies were not involved in animal testing while these brands were allowing testing in China to reap in profits.”
In response to the allegations, The Independent reported that Avon’s ‘first attempt’ will be to ‘persuade the request authority to accept non-animal test data.’ Estee Lauder said “Our commitment hasn’t changed. Our products are not tested on animals except when absolutely mandated by law.”
The case was dismissed a year later as the plaintiffs could not provide sufficient evidence for fraudulent advertising claims. However, it did raise a great deal of awareness surrounding companies supplying business to China and still using the cruelty-free tag. Today, neither Estee Lauder nor Avon have any sign of the ‘cruelty-free’ buried anywhere on their websites.
Sephora and Peter Thomas Roth sued for eye serum causing a ‘permanent hole’
American store Sephora has been selling ‘clinical’ skincare brand Peter Thomas Roth for years. Roth’s philosophy is simple, he says on his website: Breakthrough formulas. Astonishing results. From treatment serums to peels and scrubs, this results-focused brand seems to have everything you need to treat your skin at home - if you can afford it.
NewBeauty reported that in 2018, a customer named Rolan Grullon filed a lawsuit after he purchased the Laser Free Eye Serum which is now, no longer available for sale. According to reports, Grullon purchased the serum at a New York Sephora store and had a reaction from using the product, causing red bumps and a burn that would not heal. The permanent injury encouraged him to seek damages amounting to $500,000 from both Sephora and Peter Thomas Roth for malice, oppression and fraud. The complaint reads:
“The plaintiff suffered a serious and permanent injury to his face, became sore and disabled, has suffered great physical and mental pain, anguish and distress. The companies should have known that the product was defective, but they sold it nonetheless.”
There seems to be no news online of settlement, which means the case could have been dropped or settled before going through official court proceedings.
Interestingly another lawsuit has surfaced in February this year against Peter Thomas Roth accusing him on false anti-aging claims regarding the Stem Cell Rose and Water Drench lines, which you can read more of here. Roth’s personal life has also made headlines this year when his ex-wife refused to return a $500,000 diamond to his 96-year-old mother – the court battle took 3 years to settle and eventually Peter Thomas Roth’s ex-wife had no choice, but to return the ring.
Glossier refunds customers over vegan mascara
Glossier has done very well for itself since its company launch 6 years ago, by founder Emily Weiss who at the same time as working on her showstopper blog, In the Gloss was also working as an editorial assistant for Vogue. Reportedly turning over $400 million in sales in just 4 years, Glossier has a unique approach to serving their customers skincare, cosmetics and other pampering products – they swear by creating products based upon the feedback they receive from their audience.
But in 2018 when the company launched their first mascara called “Lash Slick”, they made a major marketing error. Amongst the many labels ‘Dermatologist tested, ophthalmologist tested, suitable for: sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers and formulated without fragrance,’ the product was also stated to be vegan. But Lash Slick contains mostly beeswax, and because this ingredients hinders the natural habitat of bees, it is in fact NOT VEGAN. Glossier were forced to send an email out to everyone who had purchased the mascara, refunded the cost and readjusted the web page days later.
In the same year Glossier got itself tied into a lawsuit due to having an inaccessible website for people with a visual disability. Activist plaintiff Kathleen Sypert stated that the “website is not equally accessible to blind and visually-impaired customers” and therefore violating the Americans Disability Act (ADA). Weeks later the case was dismissed with prejudice, stating that:
Plaintiff and Defendant, pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, hereby move to dismiss this action with prejudice, a resolution of all matters in dispute having been achieved. Each party shall bear their own attorneys’ fees and costs, except as otherwise agreed to by the parties.
Lime Crime cosmetics pays out on identity theft scandal
Lime Crime is another cosmetics brand that is riddled with eye-raising suggestions like ‘Is it safe to order from Lime Crime now?’ or ‘What’s wrong with Lime Crime?’ as soon as you type its name into a search engine. After researching this company for a short few minute, I soon realised this was one of the most controversial make-up brands I have EVER come across.
The founder of Lime Crime cosmetics goes by the name Doe Deere, but her legal name is Xenia Vorotova. She began her digital entrepreneurship by selling vintage and reconstructed clothing on Ebay in 2003, under the name Thunderwear!. She claims that she created the world’s first ever online make-up tutorial when she started uploading them to her Livejournal. Doe Deere successfully transformed her fashion following into a beauty cult and launched her cosmetic company that still lives and breathes today.
But underneath all the glitz and literal glamour, hides a lot of drama. Xenia Vorotova renamed herself Doe Deere when she tried a pop career but failed, she showcased a Hitler costume in 2007 for a ‘halloween look’ and a couple of years later, accused of repackaging cheap mica pigments and reselling them for a ridiculous price in the form of Lime Crime’s Unicorn Lipsticks.
In 2012, Deere sparked cultural backlash following the launch of an insensitive China Doll palette. The palette description, featuring a white model dressed up as an Asian stereotype, read:
“Don’t let her milky skin, pouty mouth and flushed cheeks fool you, underneath the poised facade, there lies a heart of a tigress”
It doesn’t end there. Sephora picked up Lime Crime cosmetics in 2014 but then dropped the company weeks later after customer complaints. Lime Crime then filed a lawsuit against Tumblr blogger ‘Doe Deere Lies,’ for the page to be taken down and then others to shortly return in its place.
In 2015 the US FDA sent Lime Crime cosmetics an official warning letter regarding their Velvetine lipstick and the use of ingredients, ferric ferrocyanide and ultramarines. Many followers claimed to have been blocked or ignored when they tried to question the company about it.
In the same year Lime Crime’s website was hacked which led to a lot of customers having money fraudulently stolen from their account. In 2017, a class action lawsuit was settled with the data breach victims with of a fund of $110,00. The amount was divided between nine plaintiffs who had the amount from $55 to $882.54 stolen from their account as a result of the website hacking. You can read more on the settlement here.
Today Doe Deere is now the ex-CEO of Lime Crime cosmetics according to her Instagram bio and settled into her new venture Poppy Angeloff a lifestyle brand that sells teacups, rings and necklaces online.
As you go through life, grow through it.