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Clean Beauty's Toxic Deception: The Impact of Changing Regulatory Schemes on the Cosmetics Industry

Published onJul 09, 2024
Clean Beauty's Toxic Deception: The Impact of Changing Regulatory Schemes on the Cosmetics Industry

24 Wake Forest J. Bus. & Intell. Prop. L. 218.

Over the past two years, the cosmetics industry has seen an explosion in “clean beauty” brands and marketing. As an industry projected to earn $22 billion by 2024, it is hard to ignore the potential effects “clean beauty” has had on consumers and the cosmetics industry.  Walk into any cosmetics retailer, be it high-end or low-end, and you’ll quickly spot the relentless marketing of ‘clean’ products, including claims that they are either “all natural” or “non-toxic.”  One consulting firm even estimated that roughly one-third of the entire United States cosmetics market is labeled as “clean.”  The market includes several indie brands, popping up at retailers like Sephora, but it also includes established brands like Dior, Olaplex, and others, who have hopped on the bandwagon of clean beauty marketing.

Perhaps due to the collective trauma that the pandemic has left on American consumers, it is more important than ever to be conscious of the products that are ingested, applied on, or absorbed into the human body.  While collective consciousness is usually a good thing, brands have used this curiosity to manipulate consumers through empty promises and deceptive claims.  This deception is primarily due to the fact that there is no accepted standard for what “clean” actually means in the context of cosmetics.  Further, the guidelines around the use of these terms are essentially non-existent since the government has severely underregulated clean beauty and the cosmetics industry.  For reference, the European Union bans more than 1,300 ingredients from use in cosmetics, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans only eleven ingredients.  Furthermore, current U.S. legislation does not require cosmetic products to obtain FDA approval, unlike approval requirements for new drugs.  Moreover, the FDA does not define the terms “natural,” or “clean.” 


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