One of the world’s largest beauty companies with a portfolio of iconic brands across fragrance, color cosmetics, skin and body care, launches a new campaign to change the dictionary definitions of beauty. The #UndefineBeauty campaign recognizes that the current English language definitions of the term ‘beauty’ are outdated and no longer reflect the values of today’s society. Specifically, the examples cited under the current entries for ‘beauty’ across the leading English dictionaries are both limiting and exclusive.
Sue Y. Nabi, Coty’s CEO, has written an open letter to the major Dictionary houses, co-signed by the Company’s Executive Committee and Senior Leadership Team, highlighting the outdated nature of their definitions, and their need for review.
Sue Y. Nabi said, “Seen through the lens of today’s society and values, the definition of beauty hasn’t aged well. Of course, not all people are impacted by, or feel excluded by these definitions. But the implicit ageism and sexism in the examples were born in a different time. We believe it’s time to bridge the gap – time to bring the definition to where society is today. By changing the definition, if more people feel included – feel beautiful – there will be a ripple effect which touches us all.”
“At Coty, we believe that no one can control or dictate what is, or is not, beautiful,” said Sue Y. Nabi. That is why the campaign to #UndefineBeauty aims to ‘undefine’ rather than simply ‘redefine’ beauty, so that no one feels excluded by the definition or examples that accompany it. Founded in Paris in 1904, Coty is one of the world’s largest beauty companies with a portfolio of iconic brands across fragrance, color cosmetics, and skin and body care. Coty serves consumers around the world, selling prestige and mass market products in more than 130 countries and territories. Coty and our brands empower people to express themselves freely, creating their own visions of beauty; and we are committed to making a positive impact on the planet.
The “clean” beauty movement is picking up steam. Health-conscious consumers are paying more attention to ingredients applied to their bodies and are looking for products made without harmful chemicals. In response to the demand, some popular cosmetics companies are now offering so-called, “clean” beauty lines. Companies considering joining this trend should take into account the substantial legal risks.
A look at the food industry’s use of the adjectives like “natural”, “clean”, “simple,” and “wholesome” illustrates the kinds of risks the beauty industry may face. When consumers began paying more attention to ingredients, companies began marketing their products with these health driven adjectives. However, this led to a barrage of class action lawsuits for false advertising under state consumer protection laws as plaintiffs lawyers argued that the claims made on the front of the label did not match the ingredients on the back of the label.
The food industry started to use the word “clean” after the use of “natural” resulted in a barrage of consumer lawsuits. As it turned out, however, the alternative claim also resulted in consumer class action lawsuits. The theory behind these suits is that “clean” is just a synonym of “all-natural” and signifies to consumers the absence of any synthetic chemicals. Similarly, it is argued that “wholesome” and “simple” are misleading consumers as to the real nutritional value of food products. This is at best an idiosyncratic view, not backed by legitimate consumer evidence. However, merely making the allegation is sometimes sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss, where the court must consider whether “no reasonable consumer” could share the plaintiff’s alleged interpretation.
Adding to the complexity is the difficulty of placing a sufficiently prominent and clear explanation, or definition, for such adjectives in an unavoidable location where the plaintiff cannot reasonably allege she failed to notice it. Courts have sometimes held that consumers need not be expected to turn around the bottle or package to read textual information on the back label before purchase.
We have seen false advertising claims creeping into the skincare industry as well, and this, coupled with the history of the food industry, should put the beauty industry on notice of the legal risks. For example, just last month, a lawsuit was filed in California State Court against the makers of Coppertone sunscreen. Prescott, et al. v. Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals Inc.,et al., No. 5:20-cv-00102 (N.D. Cal. filed Jan. 3, 2020). The suit alleges that Coppertone deceived consumers by labeling certain sunscreens as “mineral-based” when in fact chemicals make up a significant portion of its active ingredients. The plaintiff’s theory is that the headline “mineral-based” claim suggests to consumers that the product protects skin from sun damage exclusively with minerals.
In the “all-or-nothing” world of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, any ingredient call-out or characterization creates legal peril by negative implication. If the label says “clean,” the product can contain no synthetic substances. If the label says “plant-based,” the product should not have any synthetic or animal components – even if trivial in amount. Plaintiffs are routinely sending products to labs for rote chromatographic analysis, and the tiniest detectable amounts of disfavored chemicals can trigger lawsuits. In California, the consumer protection laws include California’s Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising law, and the Consumer Remedies Act. Companies making sales in California also need to be mindful of Proposition 65 which requires warning labels on products that contain any enumerated chemicals identified by the State to cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm.
Since there are no regulations mandating the definition of such descriptive terms on cosmetic labels, these definitions (e.g., “clean”) can vary from company to company. The beauty industry should heed caution when using “clean” beauty claims. In order to avoid consumer confusion— and ultimately litigation— companies should define “clean” in a way that they can, and do, meet, and that definition should be available at the point of sale.
On September 14th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Professional Salon Products Labeling Act (AB 2775). Previously, ingredient labels were not required on professional salon products, leaving workers and consumers in the dark about harmful ingredients. Thanks to AB 2775, companies that sell professional nail, hair, and beauty salon products in California are now required to list ingredients on product labels. As companies move to comply with this new labeling law, the impact will be felt across the country. About time everyone!
Salon workers, who are overwhelmingly women, are exposed to a broad array of very toxic chemicals in the nail, hair, and beauty products they work with every day. They usually don’t have access to information about the toxicity of these products because professional beauty product ingredients aren’t required by law to be labeled.
The California Professional Cosmetics Labeling Requirements Act (AB 2775) co-sponsored by BCPP requires an ingredients list on professional cosmetic product labels. This bill gives nail, hair and beauty salon workers vital information about the chemicals they are exposed to day in and day out. On May 30, 2018 AB 2775 passed the CA State Assembly with unanimous bi-partisan support (76 to 0). On August 24, 2018 the bill passed the CA State Senate again with overwhelming bi-partisan support. California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2775 into law September 14, 2018.
Nail and hair salon workers, who are overwhelmingly women, are exposed to dangerous chemicals in hair dyes, straighteners and relaxers, make-up and nail products. In California, this means nearly a half million licensed nail and hair salon workers are exposed to chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, phosphates, and other chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive harm, respiratory, and neurological harm every day. Several studies have found elevated rates of breast cancer among hairdressers and cosmetologists. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer lists “occupational exposures as a hairdresser or barber” as a probable carcinogen. Studies show hair dressers experience an increased risk of miscarriage, giving birth to low birth weight babies, neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Nail salon workers suffer negative impacts to maternal and fetal health as well as respiratory harm. Currently, manufacturers must list ingredients on the labels of cosmetics sold at the retail level—this is good for the people who sell, buy, and use those products. However, the ingredients in professional cosmetics do not have to be listed on product labels. This lack of transparency makes it impossible for beauty professionals to make informed choices about the products they use and how to protect their health.
California Assembly Bill 2775 (CA AB 2775) gives salon workers the information they need to protect their health. While federal regulation requires the labeling of ingredients in beauty and personal care products marketed to consumers and sold in retail settings, there is no equivalent disclosure requirement for products used in professional salon settings including nail, hair and beauty salons. This lack of transparency prevents salon professionals from getting the information they need to protect themselves and their clients from unsafe chemical exposures. Introduced by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, AB 2775 requires manufacturers of professional cosmetic products sold in California to provide a full list of ingredients on products starting July 1, 2020, excluding fragrance and colorants. BCPP co-sponsored California Assembly Bill 2775, introduced by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, along with Black Women for Wellness, the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, and Women’s Voices for the Earth. The bill has broad based support from nearly 3 dozen leading NGOs including American Cancer Society Action Network, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, NRDC, Clean Water Action, and Consumer Federation of California. AB 2775 also has the support of various industry trade associations and a leading multinational cosmetics company including the Personal Care Products Council, the Professional Beauty Association, California Chamber of Commerce, and Unilever.
A new lawsuit filed in Chicago last week alleges that beauty giant Ulta has been repackaging and reselling used makeup to its unsuspecting customers for years.
Attorney Zimmerman represents Meghan Devries, a Chicago woman who works in the beauty industry. She became suspicious about some of the products she purchased from Ulta. A woman claiming to be a former Ulta employee first brought the allegations to light in early January. Posting under the Twitter handle @fatinamxo, she wrote that whenever a customer returned a product, employees were instructed by Ulta to repackage or reseal the item and put it back on the shelf for sale. This practice, she said, included everything from makeup to hair and skin-care products, fragrances and hair styling tools.
She said that makeup palettes, for example, were cleaned up so that they looked new and returned to the shelf for reselling, unsanitized. She then shared screenshots of other Ulta employees making the same claims. Those tweets were cited in the class action complaint (pdf) Zimmerman filed in Cook County, Ill., last week. The suit also cites the claims of former employees that Ulta has a limit on how many returned items can be thrown away. “Managers will take used products out of a damaged bin, and if they look good enough to resell, they’ll put them back on the shelves and resell them so they don’t exceed their quota,” Zimmerman told ABC7.
He said that some of the products purchased from an Ulta store on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago seemed to have been previously used, including eye shadows missing a brush and face cleansers that were already open. Those products, he said, could have pathogens on them that remain for weeks. “There is E. coli and Klebsiella bacteria, which is commonly found in intestine and expelled with fecal matter,” Zimmerman said. Zimmerman told ABC7 that the goal of his lawsuit is to change the alleged company practice that limits the number of items that can be thrown away, as well as to provide compensation for customers who may have bought used products.