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Class Action Challenges Sephora’s ‘Clean’ Label

The case contends that many items bearing the ‘Clean at Sephora’ seal contain ingredients inconsistent with how consumers understand the term ‘clean.’

A class-action complaint requesting a jury trial was recently filed in New York against Sephora USA Inc. (owned by LVMH) alleging that a number of cosmetic products tagged “Clean at Sephora” are loaded with synthetic ingredients, including some known to cause skin irritation or allergic reactions.

More specifically, the case contends that “a significant percentage” of the items bearing the “Clean at Sephora” seal contain ingredients “inconsistent with how consumers understand” the term “clean.” The lawsuit says that as a result of Sephora’s “false and misleading representations,” certain items are more costly than similar products that are “represented in a non-misleading way.”

Defining ‘Clean’ Beauty

According to the suit, consumers’ understanding of the term “clean” is consistent with its dictionary definition, a word describing something as “free from impurities, or unnecessary and harmful components, and pure.” In the context of cosmetics, “clean” indicates that a product is made without synthetic chemicals or potentially harmful ingredients, the case argues.

The plaintiff alleges “a significant percentage of products with the ‘Clean at Sephora’ contain ingredients inconsistent with how consumers understand the term.”

For example, the suit points out, Sephora’s Saie Mascara 101 contains “numerous synthetic ingredients, several of which have been reported to cause possible harms.” Per the complaint, the mascara’s predominant ingredient is a compound of glycerol and stearic acid that’s manufactured via a chemical reaction and sourced as a bioproduct in biodiesel production.

The plaintiff notes: “As a result of the false and misleading representations, the product is sold at a premium price, approximately no less than $26.00 for 0.31 oz (10g), excluding tax and sales, higher than similar products, represented in a non-misleading way, and higher than it would be sold for absent the misleading representations and omissions.”

According to the suit, the plaintiff read and relied on the “Clean at Sephora” seal to believe the product’s ingredients were not synthetic nor connected to causing physical harm and irritation. In her suit, the plaintiff noted she paid more for the product than she would have had she known the “clean” representations were false and misleading, or would not have purchased it.

The plaintiff’s representation is the Sheehan & Associates, PC, Great Neck, NY. The lawsuit looks to cover consumers in New York, Texas, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska, Iowa, West Virginia, North Carolina and Utah who bought any “Clean at Sephora” products during the applicable statute of limitations period.

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