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L'Oréal products target genes to fight aging? Not quite

FTC charged L'Oréal's claims were false and deceptive

L’Oréal has been making some pretty big claims for its Génifique and Youth Code skincare products, claims that the Federal Trade Commissionsays were false and deceptive.

The cosmetics maker claimed that its Génifique products were “clinically proven” to “boost genes’ activity and stimulate the production of youth proteins" that would cause “visibly younger skin in just 7 days,” and would provide results to specific percentages of users

“It would be nice if cosmetics could alter our genes and turn back time,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But L’Oréal couldn’t support these claims.”

The FTC said the company has agreed to settle the complaint and to stop making unsubstantiated claims for the products. But within minutes of the FTC's releasing news of the settlement, L’Oréal issued its own statement claiming that, among other things, "The safety, quality and effectiveness of the company's products were never in question."

"The claims at issue in this agreement have not been used for some time now, as the company constantly refreshes its advertising," said L’Oréal's Kristina Schake. "Going forward, L'Oréal USA will continue to serve its customers through industry-leading research, scientific innovation and responsible advertising as it has for the last 60 years." 

Big bucks

L’Oréal has sold Génifique nationwide for as much as $132 per container since February 2009 at Lancôme counters in department stores and at beauty specialty stores. The company has sold Youth Code, which costs up to $25 per container at major retail stores across the United States, since November 2010.

For its Youth Code products, L’Oréal touted – in both English- and Spanish-language advertisements – the “new era of skincare: gene science,” and claimed that consumers could “crack the code to younger acting skin.”

Under the proposed administrative settlement, L’Oréal is prohibited from claiming that any Lancôme brand or L’Oréal Paris brand facial skincare product targets or boosts the activity of genes to make skin look or act younger, or respond five times faster to aggressors like stress, fatigue, and aging, unless the company has competent and reliable scientific evidence substantiating such claims.

The settlement also prohibits claims that certain Lancôme brand and L’Oréal Paris brand products affect genes unless the claims are supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Finally, L’Oréal is prohibited from making claims about these products that misrepresent the results of any test or study.

L’Oréal has been making some pretty big claims for its Génifique and Youth Code skincare products, claims that the Federal Trade C...

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The microbead era is almost over

First U.S. state bans microbeads this month; national ban proposed this week

It looks like the short-lived era of the plastic “microbead” used in exfoliating skin products is almost over.

This month, Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to ban the use of microbeads in cosmetic items. Four other states currently have similar bills before their legislatures — New York, Minnesota, Ohio and California.

And on June 18, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) introduced a piece of legislation which, if passed, would ban microbeads throughout the United States.

The opposition to microbeads stems from the fact that they're notoriously harmful to the environment. They're non-biodegradeable, which means they never break down. They're small enough to slip through filters at wastewater-treatment plants, so they ultimately end up going back into public water supplies, or in lakes and oceans. There, they absorb or become coated with toxins, are ingested by fish and other animals, and thus play a role in concentrating toxins and introducing them into the food chain.

When legislators attempt to ban currently legal products or practices, the companies who make or sell those products usually protest, arguing that such a ban would prove too harmful to their business model or bottom line.

Yet for the most part, that has not been the case with microbeads. Even before any U.S. states had proposed microbead bans, many cosmetic companies including Unilever, Johnson and Johnson, L'Oreal and Colgate/Palmolive had already said they intended to phase microbeads out of their products.

It looks like the short-lived era of the plastic “microbead” used in exfoliating skin products is almost over.This month, Illinois became the...

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New York State might outlaw microbeads in cosmetics

Environmental concerns lead to five states considering bead bans

The New York Attorney General is calling for a statewide ban on the use of “microbeads” in cosmetic and beauty products, and earlier this week released an environmental report, “Unseen Threat: How Microbeads Harm New York Waters, Wildlife, Health and Environment” (available in .pdf form here).

Though the report of course mentions problems specific to New York State, the general complaints are valid everywhere.

The problem with microbeads – minuscule balls of plastic used in exfoliating face creams – is that they never go away. They're non-biodegradeable, so they won't break down. They're small enough to slip through filters at wastewater-treatment plants, which mean they ultimately end up going back into public water supplies, or in lakes and oceans. There, they can easily absorb or become coated with toxins, are ingested by fish and other animals, and thus might also play a role in concentrating toxins and introducing them into the food chain.

Not alone

New York isn't the only state to consider banning microbeads for environmental reasons; Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, and California are all considering similar proposals.

Microbeads also have many opponents overseas; the Dutch nonprofit Beat The Microbead promotes an “international campaign against microbeads in cosmetics.”

Even among the companies who might use them in their products, microbeads have few if any supporters. Many companies, including Unilever, Johnson and Johnson, L'Oreal and Colgate/Palmolive have already stated intentions to phase microbeads out of their products.

The New York Attorney General is calling for a statewide ban on the use of “microbeads” in cosmetic and beauty products, and earlier this week...

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Making makeup last longer (if you use it at all)

This article is certified at least 25 percent hypocrisy-free

Confession: I've had a love-hate relationship with cosmetics ever since that long-ago day my mother deemed me old enough to wear makeup. And, although it's embarrassing to admit now, I remember thinking how lucky I was to be a girl rather than a boy — after all, if a boy looks hideous, poor thing, it's not socially acceptable for him to camouflage his hideousness beneath layers of colored powders and goop.

It took me a few years to suspect maybe I should reverse that thought process: why is it socially acceptable for a boy to go out in bareface, but not a girl? What kind of stupid sexist double standard is that?

The kind I still fall for, apparently, because if you look at my byline photo it's spectacularly obvious I dolled up for it: no, my lips aren't really that dark, my eyelids aren't that shimmery and I don't naturally have that brown/black barrier line delineating my eyeballs from the rest of my face (which isn't really that smooth and shine-free).

Beauty 911

All this flashed through my mind in a millisecond as I checked out this press release produced by my colleagues at Consumer Reports: “Money-saving fixes to make makeup last longer.”

Five things on the list. Five perfectly cromulent pieces of advice: for example, if you suffer a “BEAUTY 911: Broken lipstick” (bold-print lettering lifted from the original), it tells you how to weld the broken pieces back into a single solid lipstick, which is undeniably less expensive than throwing the lipstick away and buying a new replacement.

As for tip number five — using hot water and your thumbnail to remove dried-hairspray clogs from a hairspray nozzle — not to brag or anything, but I figured that out before I was even old enough to drive. There's also advice on how to repair a cracked eyeshadow palette, rejuvenate a bottle of congealing nail polish and, for false-eyelash wearers, how to make single-use lashes last for multiple wearings.

Excellent money-saving tips, all of them. But you know what would save even more money? Not bothering with such cosmetics at all! At least not for everyday use — I still keep a stash of emergency coverup on hand, for those days when the God of Pimples bestows His unwanted blessings upon my face, and on special occasions I still like to doll up in fancy clothes and accessories (including cosmetics) -- but when we will dispense with the idea that (for example) my bare, ordinary eyelids are just not acceptable for public view unless they're coated with shimmery powders that cost more per ounce than pure silver bullion?

I don't know. Until then, however, I'm still going to wear makeup before allowing myself to be photographed in a professional context. And I'm still kind of annoyed with myself for this.

I've had a love-hate relationship with cosmetics ever since that long-ago day my mother deemed me old enough to wear makeup....

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Sweaty breasts? That's what towels are for

The guys trying to sell you boob deodorant think you're an idiot. Don't prove them right.

There is no polite way to say this: the women's beauty industry is based on contempt for its would-be customers, all of whom must be convinced “You're not good enough, and won't be unless you buy and use whatever ridiculously overpriced crap we're trying to sell.”

Consider the stories you'll find splashed across the cover of a typical so-called “women's” magazine:

FIFTEEN COMPLICATED NEW EYE-MAKEUP-APPLICATION TECHNIQUES (which you must master because, even though people say your eyes are your best feature, everything around them is just bleah)

KICKY NEW FIGURE-ENHANCING FASHIONS (necessary because your unenhanced figure frankly looks like a cow's)

HOW TO MAKE HIM COMMIT TO YOU (which, due to your sundry figure and personality flaws, he'd never consider doing unless you apply the manipulation techniques outlined in this-here $4.95 magazine)


MUST-HAVE TRENDY CLOTHES THAT WILL BE HOPELESSLY OUT OF FASHION NEXT YEAR (but buy them anyway. What, you want to save your money for investment purposes? Pshaw, that Prince Charming you'll catch after doing everything we tell you is surely the only investment you'll ever need.)

None of this is enough, of course, so the beauty industry is always inventing entire new reasons why women should feel insecure about ourselves so they can sell us even more expensive new money-wasting products to assuage that insecurity. As of January 2014, the latest thing we're supposed to worry about is a newly discovered/invented condition called “hyperhidrosis,” or “sweaty breasts,” which is incurable [alas] although its symptoms can be alleviated [hooray!] via frequent liberal applications of something called “breast deodorant.”

"Bust Dust"

Seriously. And there's more than one brand of breast deodorant on the market, too! Klima Deodorant claims to have the best kind, because their “Bust Dust” is more than just a deodorant; it's also an anti-perspirant. Here's what the marketing copy has to say:

Nobody likes sweating through their bra or shirt.

Unfortunately, due to genetics, the heat, certain types of shirts or a myriad of [sic] other factors, roughly 30% of people worldwide suffer from chest and breast sweating (Hyperhidrosis).

While there have been many products on the market claiming to keep your chest fresh, none of them were actually an antiperspirant, they were simply baby powders with perfume. And without an antiperspirant, these will not do anything to stop wetness from leaking through your clothing.

Bust Dust is a revolutionary product because it not only prevents odor, but also blocks sweat from exiting your skin where it is applied.

Over in the UK, journalist Radhika Sanghani, while demanding to know “How stupid do beauty companies think women are?” wrote a face-palming summary of these new products for the Telegraph, and pointed out the following:

“Many people do use deodorants for their underarms, but they have the most sweat glands in the body and underarm sweat can make clothes smell or stain. Breasts are not in the same sweating league, and generally only produce sweat in intense heat or post-exercise.”

Obviously. Underarm anti-perspirants can genuinely be useful because, even when you're relaxing quietly in a cool, dry place, your armpits can still produce enough sweat to literally ruin your clothes. But for the most part, your boobs (and arms, and legs, and torso and back) don't get sweaty unless all of you gets sweaty, in which case suppressing the sweat sounds like an extremely unhealthy thing to do.

There's a reason

Remember the reason we evolved sweat glands in the first place: to rid ourselves of excess body heat. When our body temperature gets too high, sweat glands release water onto our skin, and as that water evaporates it takes heat with it. These are basic laws of physics and human biology.

And here's another one: when you're in hot weather or doing intense exercise, your skin is supposed to be shiny rather than matte. If this doesn't happen – if you're exercising on a hot day, yet your skin remains non-reflective and dry to the touch – this is bad and you must drink some water immediately, and possibly seek medical attention, because such symptoms could indicate anything from “severe dehydration” to “a weird new medical syndrome wherein you're at constant risk of heat stroke because your sweat glands don't work.”

Or maybe you just need to take a shower, scrub off the boob anti-perspirant you foolishly applied to your entire body, and resolve never to waste your money on anything as idiotic as breast deodorant ever again.

The beauty industry is based on contempt for its would-be customers, who must be convinced “You're not good enough, unless you buy our products."...

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China proposes ending requirements that cosmetics be tested on animals

It is the last major world market requiring such tests

There’s a longstanding debate (which we doubt will be settled anytime soon) regarding where to strike the balance between human needs and animal rights.

At one extreme, you have people who insist humans and animals are practically equal: eating any meat is as bad as cannibalism, they say, and owning any animal as evil as owning a human slave. At the other extreme, you have people insisting animals deserve no consideration at all: abolish all animal-cruelty laws, they say, and don’t worry about “humane” conditions for livestock.

But most people are somewhere in the middle: it’s okay to eat animals, they say, and “use” them to benefit humans, but at the same time we ought to be humane about it, and not subject animals to unnecessary suffering.

Of course, that still leaves plenty of room for disagreement: exactly what constitutes “humane” treatment? What suffering is “unnecessary?” And some of the strongest disagreements center around the issue of testing cosmetic products on animals — on the one hand, we don’t want people risking their health via wearing dangerous makeup, but on the other hand, it’s very difficult to use words like “necessary” and “eyeshadow” together in the same sentence while keeping a straight face.

But on the other other hand, technology has advanced to the point where, while we might still need to test drugs and medicines on animals, there are superior non-animal alternatives for testing cosmetics.

With this background in mind, we call your attention to a news story out of China — which, you might recall, has spent the last few years fighting off scandal after scandal related to the export of unsafe, contaminated food  including dog food — and household products.  

Cruelty Free International (a UK-based nonprofit which describes itself as “the only global organisation working solely to end animal testing for cosmetics and consumer products”), sent out a press release praising a “Non-animal cosmetics testing breakthrough reported in China”:

Cruelty Free International welcomes reports that the Chinese Food and Drug Administration propose to abolish the requirement for animal testing for cosmetics for domestically manufactured ordinary products (such as shampoo, skincare or perfume) from June 2014. Instead it proposes that industry should now have the option to assess the safety of a substance based on the toxicological profile of ingredients, similar to the Cosmetic Product Safety Report under the EU Cosmetic Regulations. China will thereafter consider further steps for imports and special-use cosmetics based on the experiences.

Last August, Bloomberg business news told the story of a legal Catch-22 facing the French company L’Oreal, as it attempted to increase international sales:

“While L’Oreal is barred by European Union rules from testing on animals within the EU, China’s government requires such trials for every new beauty product. China is the only major market where companies must test their mascaras and lotions on animals.”

The Bloomberg quote continues with some nausea-inducing details regarding exactly what such testing involves.

So it looks like China’s status as the last major world market requiring cosmetic testing on animals will end next June, if these proposed new anti-cruelty regulations come into force.

There’s a longstanding debate (which we doubt will be settled anytime soon) regarding where to strike the balance between human needs and animal righ...

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Women sue Suave, saying keratin kit made their hair melt

Women say Suave offered them as little as $50 to go get a haircut

This keratin stuff, whatever it is, seems to be the greatest thing since gluten-free bread, as long as it doesn't make your hair fall out or burn your scalp.

Unfortunately, that's what allegedly happened to hundreds of women who tried Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit, hoping it would make their hair nice and silky and straight. Instead, they say, it made it melt.

The "devastating" effects of the treatment were documented by hundreds of women on a public Facebook page, "Suave-Keratin-Infusion-Kit-Destroyed-my-Hair," screen shots from which are included in the complaint.

The suit names Unilever, Suave's manufacturer, LEK Inc. and Conopco. It claims Unilever used deceptive advertising and failed to warn consumers, even though it knew about the risk of hair loss and scalp burns even before it introduced the product in late 2011.

Unilever recalled the product in May 2012 and discontinued it but argued nevertheless that it was safe to use.

One of the lead plaintiffs, Josephine Wells, says her "once long, beautiful, natural curly healthy hair is now dull, fragile and short." She says her hair "is extremely thin and the bald spots caused by the treatment are still visible."

The suit also charges that women who complained were asked to sign an "unconscionable" release form that protected the company and retailers. In exchange, women got as little as $50 in compensation. The women are being represented by Azra Mehdi in San Francisco.

Oh, and as for keratin -- it's basically the protein that makes up human skin, hair and nails. As for what it's good for, well, the fungi that cause athlete's foot and ringworm like it, according to Wikipedia.

WebMD says it's good for straightening frizzy and curly hair but warns that the flat-ironing that is part of the application process can make hair break.

Facebook photoThis keratin stuff, whatever it is, seems to be the greatest thing since gluten-free bread, as long as it doesn't make your hair fall out...

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Organix sounds organic but guess what ...

Company settles lawsuit that claims its names misled consumers

If you bought Organix hair- or skin-care products, you could be eligible for refunds of up to $28, thanks to a class-action lawsuit that alleged the brand's name gives the impression that Organix products are made from organic ingredients.

Consumers who purchased Organix products on or after Oct. 25, 2008, can submit a claim form to receive $4 per product that was purchased, but no more than $28 total.

Claim forms are available at and must be submitted by March 17, 2014.

The company -- Todd Christopher International, Inc., which does business as Vogue International -- denies all the allegations but agreed to settle the suit to avoid the cost of litigaiton.

Consumers who purchased Organix hair- or skin-care products could receive money as part of a class-action-lawsuit settlement.The lawsuit was filed agai...

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Congressional bill seeks safer cosmetics

Companies currently do not have to demonstrate new products are safe

A measure that's pending in Congress would require cosmetics manufacturers to certify that new products are safe before they begin selling them.

What's that, you say? You thought there was already such a law on the books. Sorry, there's not. Under current law, companies do not have to show that cosmetic ingredients are safe before they go on the market.

Since substances we smear on our skin are often quickly absorbed into our bodies, this is no small oversight, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has started a campaign to support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2013, introduced by Reps. Jan Schwakosky (D-Ill.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

13 chemicals

EWG’s 2008 teen body burden studyfound an average of 13 cosmetics chemicals in the bodies of teenage girls.  Among them were phthalates, triclosan, parabens and musks – all of which have been found to alter the hormonal system.  Other EWG tests have found the same hormone-disrupting cosmetics ingredients in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies.  This research clearly documented in utero exposure to these cosmetic ingredients, EWG said.

The law that governs cosmetics has not been updated since its enactment in 1938, EWG noted. Under the current system, the industry mostly regulates itself.  

The Safe Cosmetics Act  would:

1) require pre-market safety assessment of cosmetics to the gold standard of “reasonability of no harm ” to protect vulnerable populations like children and the elderly;

2) establish a list of ingredients, such as carcinogens and reproductive toxins, that could never be used in cosmetics;

3) authorize the federal Food and Drug Administration to move swiftly to take unsafe products ingredients off the market; and

4) require full disclosure of ingredients used in cosmetics.  

A measure that's pending in Congress would require cosmetics manufacturers to certify that new products are safe before they begin selling them.What's th...

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FDA Wants Avon to Smooth Out Anti-Aging Cream Claims

Agency takes issue with some of Avon's claims for its skin care potions

The latest wrinkle in the skin cream game is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) appears to be cracking down on the claims made by major cosmetic companies.

Last month, the agency warned L'Oreal about some of the claims it was making for its Lancome products, and now the FDA has put Avon on notice that it needs to smooth out some of its claims.

It's Avon's Anew skin care brand that has drawn the FDA's attention. On its website, Avon calls Anew the "anti-aging breakthrough of the decade" and claims that "deep wrinkles begin to fade in just 1 week."

In a warning letter to the company, the FDA said it had examined the claims for various Anew potions and said they "indicate that these products are intended to affect the structure or any function of the human body, rendering them drugs" under federal law.

Consumers rate Avon Cosmetics
In its letter to Avon, the FDA cited these examples of objectionable claims on the company's website:
Anew Clinical Advanced Wrinkle Corrector:
  • “The at-home answer to wrinkle-filling injections. Start rebuilding collagen in just 48 hours.”
Rebuild collagen to help plump out lines and wrinkles.
Stimulate elastin to help improve elasticity and resilience.
Regenerate hydroproteins to help visibly minimize creasing.”
  • “Formulated to boost shock-absorbing proteins to help strengthen skin's support layers.”
  • “Improve fine & deep wrinkles up to 50%. Immediately plumps out wrinkles and fine lines. Within 48 hours begins boosting collagen production.”
Anew Reversalist Night Renewal Cream & Anew Reversalist Renewal Serum
  • “[W]rinkles are a result of micro-injuries to the skin, so AVON studied how skin heals. As part of the repair process, the body produces Activin . . . . [E]xhaustive research, testing & review have resulted in an unprecedented discovery by AVON scientists: how to activate this key repair molecule. . . . Designed to boost Activin, ANEW’s Activinol Technology helps reactivate skin’s repair process to recreate fresh skin & help dramatically reverse visible wrinkles.”
Anew Clinical Thermafirm Face Lifting Cream
  • “Our effective lifting treatment is formulated to fortify damaged tissue with new collagen. In just 3 days, see tighter, firmer, more lifted skin.”
  • “[H]elp tighten the connections between skin's layers.”
Solutions Liquid Bra Toning Gel
  • “Formulated with pomegranate and fennel extracts to help boost production of collagen and elastin.”

The FDA said Avon needs to fix the violations immediately. 

The latest wrinkle in the skin cream game is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) appears to be cracking down on the claims made by major cosme...

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Cosmetics Industry Backs Away from Formaldehyde in Hair Straighteners

Expensive salon products pose a risk to consumers

Think straight hair is to die for?  You may be right.  And for the first time, the mainstream cosmetics industry agrees with yhou.

Citing the undisputed health risks of formaldehyde, frequent consumer complaints and a lack of evidence of safety, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel, a scientific advisory board established by the major American cosmetics manufacturers, has effectively disavowed expensive salon products sold by a handful of small companies such as the Los Angeles maker of Brazilian Blowout.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has yet to bar formaldehyde from hair straighteners, even though the U.S. Department of Health and Human Safety has labeled it a known human carcinogen.

However, last month the FDA issued a formal warning that publicly admonished Brazilian Blowout. The agency declared the company’s hair-smoother adulterated, because it contained dangerous levels of formaldehyde, and misbranded, because it claimed to be free of formaldehyde.

OSHA gets involved

Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency charged with overseeing workplace safety, escalated its warning to hair salons and employees after investigators found that two popular brands of hair straighteners exposed salon workers to dangerous levels of formaldehyde.

OSHA officials also instructed the manufacturer of Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, one of the products that failed OSHA’s tests, to stop suggesting that OSHA tests had found its product safe. Brazilian Blowout’s hair-straightener, though labeled “formaldehyde free,” was found by OSHA to contain significant amounts of the chemical.

"Misleading or inadequate information on hazardous product labels is unacceptable," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "Salon owners and workers have the right to know the risks associated with the chemicals with which they work and how to protect themselves."

Though OSHA singled out Brazilian Blowout and Brasil Cacau Cadiveu, an investigation earlier this year by the Environmental Working Group uncovered 15 companies that claimed to use little to no formaldehyde, yet whose products contained substantial amounts of the chemical. As a result of its investigation, EWG urged the federal Food and Drug Administration to ban formaldehyde as an ingredient in hair straighteners.

FDA declines to act

The agency declined to do so, responding that it was “looking to [the Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel] to get additional information … that we need to be able to take an action. Right now we are not there.”

It is unclear how the industry panel’s assertion that no level of formaldehyde can be considered safe will affect FDA’s decision-making on a possible ban, EWG said.

An April 2011 survey by EWG found dozens of top salons still promoting formaldehyde-laced hair straighteners despite the mounting evidence of the risks to stylists and clients.

"The incentive to downplay mounting health concerns is substantial when you can charge several hundred dollars for a single treatment," said Thomas Cluderay of the Environmental Working Group. "Until regulators pull the plug on Brazilian Blowout, I think it's clear the company is prepared to do just about anything to peddle these products."

Think straight hair is to die for?  You may be right.  And for the first time, the mainstream cosmetics industry agrees with yhou. Citing t...

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American Laser Skincare Providing Refunds In Pennsylvania

Agrees to make changes in refund policy

American Laser Skincare – formerly American Laser Center – has agreed to pay refunds to consumers in Pennsylvania, where it once  operated six clinics.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said the company has paid more than $19,000 in consumer restitution and will pay restitution to any consumer who files a legitimate complaint within 60 days. The agreement stems from the state's action against the company's no refund policy.

The agreement with the state resolves allegations that the company withheld the entirety of pre-paid services plan funds when consumers discontinued services, and had ambiguous language regarding result guarantees.

Changes cancellation policy

The agreement also requires American Laser Skincare to change specific language regarding its Cancellation Policy, Appearance Plan, and Disclaimer. The company agreed to only retain a pro-rated service fee for written cancellations. These changes will be made in consumer contracts and promotional materials used within Pennsylvania.

While the agreement resolves complaints against the company in Pennsylvania, consumers in other states are unhappy as well.

“I paid them $4000 of the $2000 for a skincare and bikini laser,” Almeda, of Tempe, Ariz., told “I made several calls and no return calls was made. I finally talked to Fay and she was still unable to convince the regional office to send me back my money. I am not happy with their customer service and I guess I have to contact my lawyer to initiate a lawsuit.”

According to their website, American Laser Skincare is the nation's largest and leading provider of laser based skincare services. The company provides treatments such as laser hair removal, body shaping, microdermabrasion, skin tightening, Botox, cellulite treatment and skin rejuvenation.

American Laser Skincare has reached a settlement with Pennsylvania...

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'Free Trial' of Hydroxatone Gets Expensive, Suit Charges

Customers agree to pay $7.95, are then gouged for hundred dollars more, suit alleges

Atlantic Coast Media Group and Hydroxatone advertise a free trial for beauty products, then use information they get for the $7.95 "shipping and handling" charge to bill consumers $209 for a 3-month supply, a class action claims in U.S. District Court in Newark. 

It's a claim echoed by Shari, of Tracy, Calif., and many other consumers who have complained to in recent months.

"Signed up for free trial and was only to pay shipping charges. Was sent 2 jars in first shipment and 2 jars again without request. My credit card has been charged 4 times $69.95 without my permission and they would not take the product back. I have had to close my credit card account," Shari said.

The expensive anti-wrinkle cream was the subject of a November 2010 story highlighting the practice of building Web sites that feature what appear to be -- but often are not -- positive product reviews from real consumers.

In the suit, Lisa Margolis, of Richmond Heights, Ohio, says that she heard the defendants' radio advertisement for moisturizing cream, stating that she could get a free sample and needed to pay only $7.95 for shipping and handling.

She called the number quoted in the ad and gave her credit card number to the customer service representative. She said she declined suggestions that she ordered other products, saying she wanted only the free sample of the moisturizing cream.

Multiple packages

But instead of receiving just a single package of the cream, Margolis received multiple packages. She was billed $7.95 for shipping and handling but was also charged $209.85 for the “Hydrolyze Premium Beauty Program.”

The invoice further states that Margolis would receive a new shipment every 90 days and would be billed $69.94 for each shipment.

Margolis said she contacted the companies on January 12, 2011 and tried to obtain a refund but was refused. The companies then cfurther charged Margolis' credit card, biling her $33.94 on Feb. 7, $60.94 on Feb. 9 and $69.94 on March 11.

The suit charges that the companies have done the same to thousands of other customers and seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as legal fees.

Atlantic Coast Media Group and Hydroxatone advertise a free trial for beauty products, then use information they get for the $7.95 "shipping and handling" ...

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What's On Your Mind? Aquafresh, Television, Medco, AT&T

Our daily look at consumer reviews

Some toothpastes can affect sensitive gums more than others. Toothpaste is designed to be abrasive, to clean teeth and gums, so it's perhaps not surprising that some toothpastes with extra cleansing ingredients can cause problems for some people.

“I decided to purchase Aquafresh Iso Whitening Deep Penetrating toothpaste over my Sensodyne Iso whitening because it was $3.00 cheaper. Big mistake,” Caroline, of Clifton Springs, N.Y., told “I have been using it for three weeks now. My gums are sore and now my gums are turning white around the tooth area. I am also noticing some white spots on my gums. It is an obvious result of this toothpaste. They need to stop manufacturing and selling this product till they can address these issues.”

If it affected every consumer the way it does Caroline, obviously it would be withdrawn. The problem occurs when some consumers are overly sensitive -- or even allergic -- to a particular ingredient. It only affects them.  Caroline should definitely discuss the problem with her dentist and, in the meantime, go back to her old toothpaste, even if it is more expensive.

Been there, seen that

Newton, of Newport Beach, California, has a bone to pick with television and cable networks.

“Put yourself in the shoes of the TV consumer, which you are,” Newton said. “For some reason, it seems, that TV stations have adopted a programming strategy of repeats, repeats, and repeats. It’s not just a matter of repeating programs they have scheduled in the past, it’s obvious they repeat movies, for example, over and over and over on the same day. It seems to me that as a consumer, I am paying for the same product I have already paid for. In fact, it seems that I pay for the product many times over. Doesn’t this seem almost like fraud?”

 Well, Newton makes an interesting point. It does seem like there isn't much new programming when you turn on the tube, but networks, after all, have to fill 24 hours a day. From their perspective, they would probably argue that you are paying for the connection that delivers the multitude of channels, not individual programs. And of course, when it comes to over the air networks, you aren't really paying for that.

Waiting for medication

Businesses that provide health care benefits, including prescription medicine, look for every possible way to save money. Some exclusively use mail in pharmacies like Medco, meaning there can be a delay in getting a prescription filled. Phyllis, of Oklahoma City, Okla., thinks its too much of a delay.

“The refused to send my prescription after the doctor faxed it to them,” Phyllis said. “They waited 12 days to notify me of any problems. I have to monitor every prescription to see that they don't screw it up in some way.”

A local pharmacy is usually faster for the consumer. Employees that feel strongly about it should let their managers know their preference.

Too much information

Kirk, of Houston, Tex., reports an interesting encounter with AT&T and the response of his credit card company, Chase. Kirk said he began the online process of purchasing a $30 international phone card on the AT&T site. Later, he said he received a call from an AT&T representative.

“The representative asked for the last four digits of my Social Security number to confirm my credit card,” Kirk told “I told him that I would not give him that information to purchase a phone card. He said he could verify my card if we conferenced in Chase, my card issuer.”

Reluctantly, Kirk agreed and was soon on the three-way line with someone from Chase.

“The AT&T representative started asking various questions to verify I was the card holder,” Kirk said. “The Chase representative stopped the AT&T rep and said we will not give out any of the information on our card holder that you are requesting. Furthermore, she said as a merchant you do not need any of that information, only name, address, credit card number and phone number. Chase then directed me to not continue with this transaction as she felt it was unscrupulous.”

Kirk said he called AT&T to complain and relay the information from Chase, but was told that was AT&T policy. Still, it's gratifying to see Chase looking out for the privacy of one of their customers.

Here is what's on consumer's minds today: Aquafresh, Television, Medco, AT&T, Waiting for medication, Too much information and Been there, seen that....

Redken Recalls Guts Spray Mousse Foam

The can can rupture

Redken 5th Avenue NYC is recalling about 1 million Guts Spray Mousse foam cans. The aerosol container's liner can corrode over time, posing a risk of the cans rupturing and expelling its contents.

Redken has received 41 reports of cans rupturing. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves Redken Guts 10 Volume Spray Mousse Foam sold in 10.58- and 2-ounce size cans. The hair styling product was sold in a silver container with black writing. "Redken" and "10" are printed on the front of the product. The product can be identified by a lot code printed on the bottom of the can. Lot codes included in this recall include:

  • Any can with lot codes that does not contain a G or H as the third digit

  • Any can with the following lot codes: 32G10Y, 32G11Y, 32G20Y, 32G21Y, 32G23Y, 32G40Y, 32G41Y, 32G60Y, 32G61Y, 32G62Y, 32G70Y

Hair salons and beauty supply stores sold the mousse nationwide from January 1998 through February 2011 for between $4 and $16. It was made in the United States.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled mousse, record the product's lot code then discard the contents by spraying it into a waste container in a well ventilated area. Prior to disposing of the container, consumers should obtain the lot code from the container, then contact Redken for information on receiving a refund of the purchase price.

For additional information, contact Redken toll-free at (888) 241-9504 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm's website at

Redken Recalls Guts Spray Mousse FoamThe can can rupture...

Male Plastic Surgery is Booming, Thanks to Boomers

Despite what you might think, it's men who are keeping plastic surgeons busy these days.

You thought women were the only ones going in for cosmetic surgery? Maybe that was the case at one time, but today it’s aging men who want to look good, and who are keeping cosmetic surgeons in their Mercedes.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is out with a new survey today showing cosmetic surgeries on men rose two percent in 2010. It gets a little more interesting when you break it down by category of surgery.

Facelifts for men rose 14 percent in 2010 while male liposuction increased seven percent.

The ASPS 2010 statistics show that men underwent more than 1.1 million cosmetic procedures, both minimally-invasive and surgical.

Bucking the trend

The majority of the Men’s Top 10 fastest-growing cosmetic procedures are surgical, which bucks the previous trend of growth in minimally-invasive treatments.

“The growth in cosmetic surgical procedures for men may be a product of our aging baby boomers who are now ready to have plastic surgery,” said ASPS President Phillip Haeck, MD. “Minimally-invasive procedures such as Botox and soft tissue fillers work to a point. However, as you age and gravity takes over, surgical procedures that lift the skin are necessary in order to show significant improvement.”

Most popular procedures

Here’s the list of the top 10 cosmetic surgeries performed on men last year:

  • Facelift - 14% Increase 
  • Ear Surgery (Otoplasty) – 11% Increase 
  • Soft Tissue Fillers – 10% Increase 
  • Botulinum Toxin Type A – 9% Increase 
  • Liposuction – 7% Increase 
  • Breast Reduction in Men - 6% Increase 
  • Eyelid Surgery - 4% Increase 
  • Dermabrasion - 4% Increase 
  • Laser Hair Removal - 4% Increase
  • Laser Treatment of Leg Veins - 4% Increase

“Typically people think of celebrities and high profile men going under the knife,” said Stephen Baker, MD, an ASPS Member Surgeon based in Washington DC. “And while that may be true, the typical male cosmetic surgery patient that I see is an average guy who wants to look as good as he feels.”

Baker said much of the new business in male cosmetic surgery is among Baby Boomers. He calls Boomer men “the new face” of the male plastic surgery trend.

Despite what you might think, it's men who are keeping plastic surgeons busy these days....

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Getting Rid of Stretch Mark Scams

Consumers looking for a free trial get trapped in a web of fees.

It sounds like such a deal! Especially when the company says you can use the entire thingand just send back the empty container.

Consumers might think they're pulling a fast one on these companies, or they just think they're being smart with their money. But what seems like a simple transaction turns into a nightmarish web of "membership programs" and policy technicalities that ends up costing the consumer way more than a couple of bucks.

And the problem is, new products spring up every day, snaring well-meaning consumers with the same old shady tactics.

Take Celtrixa, for example. The lotion is touted as a powerful aid in reducing the appearance of stretch marks.

A full-size bottle of the lotion costs over a hundred dollars, but consumers who want to try it out can do a "free, 30-day trial." Just pay shipping and handling. What's the harm in that?

As it turns out, plenty.

The "fine" print

Consumers who want to try Celtrixa click the advertisement and are brought to a webpage where they fill in their billing information and credit card number (to pay for the $2 shipping fee).

Near the "send" button, in regular-sized, black type reads a disclaimer:

"We'll send you 2 bottles of Celtrixa to try Risk Free for 30 days (a $120 value). If you like your results and want to continue looking younger, you don't have to do anything else. Your credit card will be billed in two payments of $59.95 each, the first payment 30 days after you receive the shipment and the second 30 days later. To ensure you do not run out of Celtrixa and continue getting improved results, you'll receive a new 60-day supply every 2 months after that as a member of our Celtrixa Beauty Program. Your same credit card provided today will be automatically billed $6.95 shipping and processing for each new shipment plus $59.95 every 30 days. All NJ residents will be charged sales tax. If you're not completely satisfied, simply call Celtrixa® at 866-922-9791 and return your bottles within 30 days of receiving your shipment - even if they are empty - for a full refund of your purchase price less any insurance paid and shipping and processing fees. No hassles. No commitment. The Free MiracleBurn Cream is yours to keep as our gift. As a member of our Celtrixa Beauty Program, you are not obligated to continue. Cancel at any time!!! Please note: The Risk Free is for first time customers only. Customer responsible for return postage."

Did you read all that? If you're like most people, no.

So let's break it down, shall we?

"We'll send you 2 bottles of Celtrixa to try Risk Free for 30 days (a $120 value)."

Okay, great. So far, so good.

"If you like your results and want to continue looking younger, you don't have to do anything else. Your credit card will be billed in two payments of $59.95 each, the first payment 30 days after you receive the shipment and the second 30 days later."

This is where it gets a little sticky.  See, the trial is free, but the lotion is not. So, if you keep it, you have to pay $120 for it.

Consumers who actually read this far might think, "Whatever. I'll just return it before the 30-day trial is up."  But we'll discuss the 30-day trial in a minute. Moving on...

"To ensure you do not run out of Celtrixa and continue getting improved results, you'll receive a new 60-day supply every 2 months after that as a member of our Celtrixa Beauty Program. Your same credit card provided today will be automatically billed $6.95 shipping and processing for each new shipment plus $59.95 every 30 days."

Did you catch that? If you keep the free trial bottle of lotion, you are enrolled in their "beauty program" and are billed $60 to $67 every month and receive a bottle of lotion every other month.

"All NJ residents will be charged sales tax."

Those Garden Staters. Just can't catch a break, can they?

"If you're not completely satisfied, simply call Celtrixa at 866-922-9791 and return your bottles within 30 days of receiving your shipment - even if they are empty - for a full refund of your purchase price less any insurance paid and shipping and processing fees."

Is this in reference to the lotion received for the "free trial" or any subsequent bottles received? Who knows, since it's not specified.

"No hassles. No commitment."

No comment.

"The Free MiracleBurn Cream is yours to keep as our gift."

Thank you?

"As a member of our Celtrixa Beauty Program, you are not obligated to continue."


"Cancel at any time!!! Please note: The Risk Free is for first time customers only."


"Customer responsible for return postage."

Of course.

The "free 30-day trial"

Consumers who still feel confident they can avoid ending up in an expensive auto-ship program may still go ahead with the trial.

After all, you have a whole month to try and then return the product, right?


The only way to get a totally accurate idea of how the "30 day trial" works is to visit Celtrixa's official website and wade through the very long, very dense "Customer Service" page.

And even then, they don't say exactly how the trial works. Most troubling, they never say exactly when the 30 day trial starts. Consumers may assume the trial starts once they receive the product in the mail and can, you know, try the product.

But it turns out, the trial starts the day consumers place their order. 

The "free trial" days tick off from there.

According to Celtrixa's website, orders take up to two days to process and ship out. Those two days are included in the "30 day trial."

Celtrixa's website also states regular shipping time ranges from 10 to 14 days. "Rush" shipping ranges from 7 to 10 days. Those shipping days are included in the "30 day trial."

That's as many as 16 days before the consumer receives the product in the mail.  Those 16 days are included in the 30 day trial.

Consumers who want to return the product before the 30 days is up has to figure in how many days it could take for the product to get back to the company, as those shipping days also count towards the trial.

So say it takes five days for the product to ship back to the company. That leaves the consumer about a week to try out the lotion.

Of course, the makers of Celtrixa recommend using the lotion for at least two weeks to see any results.

The "preferred customer beauty program"

If the product is not returned within the 30 days, or it gets lost in the mail, the company automatically charges the consumer full price for the trial bottle ($120), then places the consumer in their "preferred customer beauty program."  That's when the whole process gets really messy.

Most consumers don't even know they've been enrolled into a "program" until they start seeing huge charges on their credit cards and boxes of lotion starts arriving at their door.

Getting out of the "program" involves calling the company and making a special request. That is, if you can get a human being on the phone.

Preying on human nature

Gone are the days of teeny-tiny fine print. Companies like the one selling Celtrixa put the terms and conditions right in front of your face, in regular-sized type.

But usually, the details are vague, the sentences are densely written, and the whole thing is formatted in such a way that it's unappealing to the eye.

Perhaps someone hopes consumers will skim the first couple sentences and then be so busy submitting their credit card information, they'll gloss over the important details (which are usually near the end of the disclaimer for this very reason).

So are these "free trial" deals actually "scams"? Technically, no.  But the companies that offer them have made it so complicated to adhere to the rules of the trial, it's easier to just stay away.

Getting Rid of Stretch Mark Scams. Consumers looking for a free trial get trapped in a web of fees....

Brazilian Blowout is Formaldehyde-Laden, Canadian Government Says

Testing shows levels grossly over government regulations

A popular hair treatment is facing widespread scrutiny -- and a class action lawsuit -- after the Canadian government issued an advisory warning that the solution contains jaw-dropping levels of formaldehyde. 

Brazilian Blowout, a straightener that promises to leave hair "totally frizz-free, shiny, effortlessly manageable and with plenty of body and bounce," according to its website, was found to contain up to 12 percent formaldehyde. Canadian law forbids formaldehyde levels higher than 0.2 percent.

In its advisory on Thursday, Health Canada said it has received six complaints from consumers and two from hair stylists, all complaining of "burning eyes, nose, and throat, breathing difficulties, and one report of hair loss associated with use of the product."

That report apparently came from Suzanne Harvey, a Calgary woman who told the Times Colonist that her hair was "dropping on my arms to the point where my husband said, 'What's going on with your hair?'"

The shocking amounts of formaldehyde allegedly contained in the product are even more surprising in light of the manufacturer's claim that the product is totally formaldehyde-free. According to Brazilian Blowout's website, the product is: "The ONLY Professional Smoothing Treatment that improves the health of the hair. No damage! No harsh chemicals! NO FORMALDEHYDE!!"

Classified as probable carcinogen Formaldehyde is a probable carcinogen, with even one part per million potentially causing watery eyes, nausea, wheezing, and burning in the eyes, throat, and nose. Testing has shown that exposure to the chemical may have caused nasal cancer in lab rats.

For its part, Brand Building Communications, which distributes the product, said in a statement that the test results were inaccurate and the result of improper methodology. "It is important to understand that formaldehyde is not a cosmetic ingredient and never has been," according to the statement. "It is a gas that cannot be added to cosmetics and only exists in tiny trace amounts."

But the company's steadfastness wasn't enough to stave off a class action lawsuit, filed by salon owner Kim Ryley of Victoria, who has used the product since last October. Ryley said that, even in that relatively short period, she has experienced burning eyes and developed problems breathing. "I'm shocked and angry," Ryley told the Times Colonist. "The fact that we were sold and promoted a product that claims to be safe and formaldehyde-free is upsetting."

Her suit seeks compensation for both physical and financial injury as a result of using the product. Brazilian Blowout's website, which boasts that the product was American Salon's "2010 Professional's Choice Winner," says the product "will actually improve the health of color-treated/highlighted hair by conditioning the hair while sealing the cuticle for enhanced color, reduced frizz, and radiant shine."

A popular hair treatment is facing widespread scrutiny....

Illinois Sues Spa For Unapproved Treatments

Allegedly caused patients 'extreme pain'

December 10, 2009
Consumers go to a spa to make themselves feel better. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan charges a Cook County, Illinois spa chain made some consumers feel a lot worse, performing unapproved and unsupervised cosmetic treatments.

In a suit filed against Nu U Med Spas, Madigan claims the company used deceptive marketing and that its unapproved practices caused some patients to experience extreme pain and lasting injuries.

"These procedures have yet to be thoroughly researched and sanctioned by the proper medical authorities," Madigan said. "Despite lacking concrete scientific evidence, Nu U purposefully misleads consumers into believing that their medical spa treatments are safe and effective. I'm very concerned that the health and safety of Illinois consumers who visit Nu U Med Spas are at risk."

The Chicago-based medical spa chain allegedly uses high-pressure sales tactics based on deceptive marketing claims to induce consumers into purchasing a series of medical and beauty treatments, including Lipodissolve, which is an injected therapy used to dissolve fat cells, according to Madigan's complaint.

Nu U allegedly claims its treatments will "liquefy fat quicker" and can "rid your system of that life long battle of the bulge," but fails to inform consumers that its treatments haven't been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as safe and effective treatments. Both the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons do not recommend using Lipodissolve for fat reduction due to the lack of research that shows its effectiveness.

Further, because Lipodissolve is an injected treatment, it requires a physician's order, but Nu U allegedly administers the fat-reducing treatment without a doctor's order. In fact, despite its outward claims, Nu U allegedly fails altogether to monitor and evaluate patients by licensed physicians at all seven of its Chicago area locations.

High pressure

Madigan's complaint further alleges that the Nu U personnel rush consumers into signing contracts, medical consent forms and financing documentation for treatments but fail to review the documents with consumers. The defendants allegedly pressure consumers to sign up for health care financing but fail to inform consumers that by signing the financial documentation they are authorizing an automatic credit card charge. Nu U allegedly refuses to provide refunds when requested, even in the event that a consumer has not received all of the contracted treatments.

Madigan's lawsuit charges Nu U with violating the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Illinois Medical Practice Act and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. It asks the court to permanently enjoin the defendants from owning or operating medical or beauty clinics in Illinois and to order the company to pay civil penalties of $50,000, an additional $50,000 penalty for each violation committed with the intent to defraud, an additional $10,000 penalty for each violation committed against a senior citizen 65 years of age or older, and the costs associated with the investigation and prosecution of the lawsuit.

Illinois Sues Spa For Unapproved Treatments...

Pressure to Look Attractive Linked to Fear of Rejection

New study highlights "appearance-based rejection sensitivity" among college students

People who feel pressure to look attractive are more fearful of being rejected because of their appearance than those around them, according to a new study by researchers at the University at Buffalo and the University of Kent.

The study of what's known as "appearance-based rejection sensitivity" among college students was published in the spring edition of Psychology of Women Quarterly.

It found that overall women showed greater sensitivity to appearance rejection than did men. This was particularly true of women who felt they needed to look attractive in order to be accepted by their peers.

The study also found that men and women who had internalized media ideals of attractiveness had higher levels of appearance-based rejection sensitivity than did their peers.

No relationship was found between parents' perceptions of attractiveness and study participants' increased sensitivity to appearance-based rejection. Thus, peer and media influences, rather than parental influence, play a key role in appearance-based rejection sensitivity.

"There is a lot of research to suggest that physically attractive people are less stigmatized by others in this society, and have significant advantages in many areas of life than those who are viewed as physically unattractive," said researcher Lora Park, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo.

"Our study suggests that when people feel pressure to look attractive, whether from their friends or the media, they may be putting themselves at risk for experiencing negative outcomes that may limit their development and enjoyment of life in many ways," she added.

Indeed, previous research by Park found that appearance-based rejection sensitivity is related to negative mental and physical health outcomes, such as feeling unattractive, feeling badly about oneself when comparing one's appearance with others, feeling lonely and rejected when thinking about disliked aspects of one's appearance, and showing increased risk for eating disorders.

Although the current study focused on a predominantly young, white college-age sample, Park says future research should investigate appearance-based rejection sensitivity across diverse age and ethnic groups, in order to better understand its prevalence and to examine how it might be reduced.

Pressure to Look Attractive Linked to Fear of Rejection...

QVC to Settle Deceptive Claims Charges

Dietary supplements, anti-cellulite skin cream at issue

TV home shopping channel QVC, Inc. has agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it made false and unsubstantiated claims about three types of dietary supplements in violation of an FTC order, and about an anti-cellulite skin cream in violation of the FTC Act.

The agency claims QVC, one of the worlds largest multimedia retailers, violated a 2000 FTC order barring it from making deceptive claims for dietary supplements.

According to the commission, QVC aired approximately 200 programs in which false and unsubstantiated claims were made about For Women Only weight-loss pills; Lite Bites weight-loss food bars and shakes; and Bee-Alive Royal Jelly energy supplements.

In addition, the complaint charged that QVC violated Section 5 of the FTC Act by making unsubstantiated claims about Lipofactor Cellulite Target Lotion.

The settlement requires QVC to pay $6 million for consumer redress and a $1.5 million civil penalty. In addition, the settlement expands the prior FTC order and further bars QVC from making unsubstantiated claims that any drug or cosmetic eliminates or reduces a users cellulite.

QVC aired ads that werent true and violated an FTC order, said Eileen Harrington, Acting Director of the FTCs Bureau of Consumer Protection. Simply put, we arent going to let QVC get away with this. The company is responsible for the product claims made on its programs, and we expect that going forward, QVC will do a better job for its audience and make sure that its programs are truthful and not deceptive.

The ads allegedly included:

• Unsubstantiated claims that the weight-loss supplements could cause people to lose significant amounts of weight, maintain their weight loss for a long time, and prevent carbohydrates from being stored as fat;

• False claims that the weight-loss supplements could prevent dietary fat from being absorbed in peoples bodies; unsubstantiated claims that the energy-enhancing supplements could reduce fatigue and increase energy in people with severe fatigue and other physical ailments; and

• Unsubstantiated claims that Lipofactor lotion could reduce cellulite, including measurable decreases in the sizes of individuals arms, legs, and abdomens.

QVC to Settle Deceptive Claims Charges...

Anti-Aging Becomes Top Facial Skincare Seller in 2008

Times may be bad, but that doesn't mean you have to look bad

February 26, 2009
A new report from market research firm Mintel finds Americans are pouring more money into the fountain of youth known as anti-aging skincare.

During 2008, sales of anti-aging skincare products rose to over $1.6 billion. In fact, anti-aging sales have surpassed sales of facial cleansers, which garnered nearly $570 million last year.

The market for anti-aging skincare has grown rapidly over the past couple years. US sales rose 13 percent from 2006 to 2008, outpacing general facial skincare sales, which grew less than 11 percent. Mintel expects the market to remain robust over the next five years, growing some 20 percent through 2013.

"Anti-aging won't fall to the recession," said Kat Fay, senior beauty and personal care product analyst at Mintel. "Looking young is extremely important to many women, especially Baby Boomers, and it's not an issue they're willing to compromise on because of tightened budgets. Many women see anti-aging skincare as a reasonably priced investment in their appearance and well-being."

According to Mintel's Global New Products Database, nearly a third of US facial skincare product launches tracked in 2008 boasted anti-aging claims. Globally, one in four included such claims.

"Manufacturers see the growing demand for anti-aging benefits and they're responding accordingly with a constant flow of new products. The latest launches are more detailed and scientific in their claims, ingredients and projected benefits," said Fay.

Mintel Beauty Innovation, which monitors new beauty and personal care product launches globally, has seen recent advancements in the science and marketing of anti-aging skincare.

Sirtuins are a new area of activity: these naturally occurring enzymes are thought to boost cell longevity and therefore, provide anti-aging benefits.

For example, Natura Biss's premium skincare product, The Cure, contains peptides that modulate sirtuins. It claims to prevent premature aging and wrinkles. Este Lauder's new Time Zone Line and Wrinkle Reducing Creme likewise boasts "Sirtuin EX1 Technology" and claims to stimulate proteins for a more youthful look.

Anti-Aging Becomes Top Facial Skincare Seller in 2008...

Women More Likely To Regret Tattoos

More women than men visit clinics to remove ink

Contrary to popular belief, people with tattoos really do care what others think of them, especially women.

According to a report in the July issue of Archives of Dermatology more women than men visit dermatology clinics for tattoo removal and maybe motivated by the social stigma associated with tattoos and negative comments by others. About one-fourth of adults age 18 to 30 have a tattoo.

"While the vast majority of individuals who are tattooed are pleased with their skin markings (up to 83 percent), the popularity and prevalence of tattoos often mean that dermatologists are increasingly hearing stories of regrets and requests for tattoo removal," the authors write. About 20 percent of those with tattoos are thought to be dissatisfied with their artwork, although only about 6 percent seek removal.

Researchers from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, Texas, conducted a survey of 196 individuals who visited one of four dermatology clinics for tattoo removal in 2006. The 66 men and 130 women, with an average age of 30, answered 127 questions about demographics, obtaining their tattoo and their motivations for seeking removal. Their answers were compared with responses to a similar survey conducted in 1996.

"In both the 1996 and the 2006 studies, a shift in identity occurred, and removal centered around dissociating from the past," the authors write. In 2006, participants reported they had gotten a tattoo to feel unique (44 percent), independent (33 percent) or to make life experiences stand out (28 percent).

The main reasons listed for seeking tattoo removal included just deciding to remove it (58 percent), suffering embarrassment (57 percent), lowering of body image (38 percent), getting a new job or career (38 percent), having problems with clothes (37 percent), experiencing stigma (25 percent) or marking an occasion, such as a birthday, marriage or newly found independence (21 percent).

2006 survey also found that participants were more likely to be women (69 percent vs. 31 percent men) who were white, single, college-educated and between the ages of 24 and 39. They reported being risk takers, having stable families and were moderately to strongly religious.

While the women were pleased with their tattoos when they got them, they reported changes in their feelings over the following one to five years. "While men also reported some of these same tattoo problems leading to removal, there seemed to be more societal fallout for women with tattoos, as the tattoos began to cause embarrassment, negative comments and clothes problems and no longer satisfied the need for uniqueness," the authors write.

"Societal support for women with tattoos may not be as strong as for men," they conclude. "Rather than having visible tattoos, women may still want to choose self-controlled body site placement, even in our contemporary society."

Contrary to popular belief, people with tattoos really do care what others think of them, especially women....

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FDA Seizes 'Age Intervention' Cosmetics

Eyelash treatment could cause optic nerve damage

At the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Marshals have seized 12,682 applicator tubes of Age Intervention Eyelash, a product the FDA says could lead to decreased vision. Authorities said the sales value of the seized tubes is approximately $2 million.

Age Intervention Eyelash is sold and distributed by Jan Marini Skin Research, Inc., of San Jose, Calif.

The FDA considers Age Intervention Eyelash to be an unapproved and misbranded drug because Jan Marini Skin Research has promoted the product to increase eyelash growth. Before a new drug product may be legally marketed, it must be shown to be safe and effective, and approved by FDA.

FDA said it also considers the seized Age Intervention Eyelash to be an adulterated cosmetic. The product contains bimatoprost, an active ingredient in an FDA-approved drug to treat elevated intraocular pressure, or elevated pressure inside the eye.

For patients using the prescription drug, using the Age Intervention Eyelash in addition to the drug may increase the risk of optic nerve damage because the extra dose of bimatoprost may decrease the prescription drug's effectiveness.

Damage to the optic nerve may lead to decreased vision and possibly blindness.

In addition, the agency warns use of Age Intervention Eyelash may cause other adverse effects in certain people due to the bimatoprost, including macular edema - swelling of the retina- and uveitis, which is an inflammation in the eye. Both may lead to decreased vision.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California filed the complaint requesting the seizure, and coordinated with the FDA. The California Department of Public Healths Food and Drug Branch had previously embargoed the seized products at the San Jose facility.

Jan Marini Skin Research has notified FDA that the company ceased manufacturing and shipping any Age Intervention Eyelash product containing bimatoprost last year.

The FDA recommends that consumers, dermatologists, and estheticians who may still have Age Intervention Eyelash discontinue using it and discard any remaining product. FDA also recommends that consumers consult their health care provider if they have experienced any adverse events that they suspect are related to the product's use.

FDA Seizes 'Age Intervention' Cosmetics...

Cosmetics: A Fresh Face or Just a Waste?

Americans Spend Billions on Unproven Creams, Gels, Ointments

Like many other men in their early thirties, I had always hoped there would be this golden period in my life between the last of my lingering adolescent acne and the greying of my hair. Then again, I planned to be a millionaire before the age of 30 and that didn't happen either.

So I found myself in the drugstore the other day, staring bleakly at shelf after shelf of cosmetic products, all promising to cure the recent flare-up of my skin on the basis of natural ingredients like aloe vera, cucumber, even salmon eggs -- although presumably without the fishy flavor.

The cleansers and toners that didn't feature chunky images of fresh fruit on the packaging were instead covered with drawings of complex amino acid chains and even the odd reputable-looking scientist in a white coat. Between the pictures of sliced avocadoes and the pseudo-science they had me sold and I came away with a bottle of each in my hands, hoping rather foolishly that I could buy what I wanted -- to look good.

Americans spend billions on cosmetics each year. With the most modern role models coming through the TV set, everyone wants pearly white teeth, unblemished skin and the rich, flowing hair that all their favorite celebrities seem to have.

Worse, in a society where products are frequently sold through fear, the underlying message is that with the odd freckle, blackhead or pimple, you stand no chance of getting a date, an interview or just some welcome attention from the opposite sex when walking down the street.

Cosmetics companies understand this intimately. Like any major corporation, they hire teams of psychologists, researchers and PR consultants to identify the major causes of concern for their target public and all their advertising, packaging and product launches are centered around their recommendations.

You can bet that if eyebrows went out of fashion, L'Oreal and co would be the first to sell lotions to prevent the growth of hair above your eyes.

When I got home I eagerly applied the avocado cleanser and, while I impatiently waited the 20 minutes until the instructions allowed me to wash it off, I checked out the ingredients, wondering how they'd ever got avocado to be so soft and smelling so fresh. I was a little disconcerted to find that while there was indeed pulp of avocado contained within, it came only at the end of a long list of chemicals that I could barely pronounce, never mind identify.

Go ahead, check the ingredients in just about any cosmetic you have in the bathroom and if you can explain what they all are I'll send you a free avocado.

Which left me with the moisturizer containing the latest in amino acids. I belatedly realised that I'd been impressed by an ad on TV which featured an impressive computer simulation of the amino acids in question spinning around and melting into skin cells. With a hot date that night and blackheads on my nose, I was ready to believe anything.

Spin Cream

Cosmetics companies are really smart. They pay large sums to laboratories to come up with actual hard data about the behavior of things like broken-down proteins that can be put into neat little computer animations. Then they pay marketing spin doctors to find a way of implying that these latest biological innovations are actually going to make the slightest difference to your skin or your hair.

And there's the rub -- and also why you'll never be able to sue them for misleading you in your purchase -- they keep the scientific mumbo jumbo to one side and the claims about the effects of the cosmetic quite separate.

They'll say something like "such and such a vitamin is important for cell formation" which may be perfectly true but there's no evidence that smearing the vitamin on your face will help in the slightest.

Their claims that the cream will hydrate your skin are true but just about any cream will do so. Only the the computer graphics show the vitamins entering the skin and enhancing the glow and sex appeal of the exceptionally beautiful model in question.

Or take shampoos and conditioners. Companies like Garnier and L'Oreal are forever touting the use of specially catered proteins to give new life and verve to your hair, you know, to get the movie star look.

There's just one problem -- now brace yourself -- your hair is dead. Really. And no amount of amino acids is going to change that. What the conditioner can do is make your hair look great -- for a while -- but that has nothing to do with all the science of hair growth. It comes down to the right balance of oils, chemicals and water in the product.

But if the science is spurious or the advertisements misleading, how could the products ever be sold in a country like the US? Surely the government has safeguards in place to protect the consumer and test the claims of such products?

Not a hope.

For while the FDA does call for drug companies to produce documented studies that prove efficacy, cosmetic products are allowed onto the U.S. market without any efficacy tests being conducted and cannot even be recalled in the event that they prove hazardous to the consumer. The FDA believes that "cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients" and leaves it up to the consumer to decide if they work or not.

It's an open question whether there are any health risks from using the kind of cosmetics found in most American bathrooms. Certainly many of the ingredients could be fairly toxic but the skin just isn't that absorbent -- we'd leak if it was.

However, as we enter a futuristic technological era, some cosmetics now include nano-particles which can penetrate the skin and perhaps cause ailments ranging from breast cancer to genital deformities or damage to our children. Such charges haven't been proven but experience shows that it makes sense to take precautions sooner rather than later.

Why wait a decade or so until people start getting sick from the latest skin rub?

Safety First

One such group is the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which has been pressuring companies for some time now to sign a convention based on safety measures introduced in Europe. Interestingly enough, while many smaller companies have signed, the giants like L'Oreal, Revlon, Gap and Proctor & Gamble have refused to join up.

And why does the FDA not bother to regulate the safety of cosmetics in America? It's because they consider cosmetics to be "topical products that do not affect the structure or function of the skin."

They don't do anything, in other words.

Got that? All those expensive bottles that promise to give you the skin of a TV star are really nothing more than make-up and moisturizer. Your skin looks good or bad depending on the overall state of your health, not on how many layers of amino acids you splash on top. The best thing you can do for overall skin health is to drink lots of water, avoid fried and processed foods and get plenty of exercise.

But as the best things in life can't be sold, you'll rarely hear the above and instead get lost in the vast array of cosmetic supplies that hypnotized me into making a purchase the other day. Dermatologists are beginning to tire of the claims of the cosmetics companies though and there's a call for a return to the basics of skin care. One prominent advocate is a Dr. Fran E. Cook-Bolden, a New York dematologist, who summed it up:

"Just two products, a gentle cleanser and a good sunscreen, are enough daily skin care for most people, and you can buy those at a drugstore or a grocery store."

Yogurt Rub

I spent last winter in India and I was struck at how many of the cosmetics available were typically outside the budget of many Indian families yet they all seemed to have glowing complexions. One day my landlady decided I was respectable enough to be invited for lunch and, towards the end of the meal, her teenage daughter began to apply some yogurt to her skin.

After they had a good laugh at the look on my face, it was explained to me that, according to the principles of Ayurveda -- India's traditional holistic medicine -- most cosmetics for skin care can be found within the kitchen for next to no expense.

They went on to show me how honey could be used as a moisturizer, slices of uncooked potato could tighten the skin and even papaya pulp or beaten eggs could be used as face masks. All without costing them any more than the leftover groceries.

And these ancient traditions had not only the advantage of being cheap, they were also free of the kind of heinous karma that the cosmetics companies have built up over the years by testing on animals. For decades, the standard method for determining the irritation factor of new products has been to release drops of the cosmetic into the eyes of rabbits or guinea pigs and observe the toxic reaction.

Amid recent animal rights campaigns and surveys that show a majority of Americans and Britons oppose animal testing, the cosmetics companies have done all they can to cast a smokescreen: they played with the stats to look innocent, they donated money to universities to further studies into alternative testing methods and hired the best PR teams that money can buy.

Yet animal testing still goes on in a big way, despite all the media spin employed by the cosmetics giants. Naturally, these kinds of experiments have usually been outsourced to other companies to avoid any immediate moral fallout and bad publicity. Which is just as well as half the animals used in the testing die a few weeks afterwards.

So think about that the next time you reach for your sunscreen. If the bottle doesn't proudly announce that it's free of animal testing then you can bet that many helpless creatures had to die in order for you to shrink those wrinkles.

Ultimately, just about everyone wants to look good. Cosmetics wouldn't be a multi-billion dollar industry if they didn't. But products and industries should exist to serve our needs, not the other way around. We don't need teams of scientists, PR marketing whizzes, legal teams and graphic designers to put together products to make us look beautiful, much less healthy. As Dr. William P. Coleman, M.D., a dermatology professor from Tulane University in New Orleans tells us:

"You have to think of cosmetics as decorative and hygienic, not as things that are going to change your skin. A $200 cream may have better perfume or packaging, but as far as it moisturizing your skin better than a $10 cream, it probably won't."

The cosmetics industry would have us believe that enduring myth, that beauty is only skin-deep. We then take the next step of swallowing the notion that if we were only to spend enough money on our appearances then we'd look beautiful. The truth is, no amount of $200 wonder creams is going to do that for us.

A good make-up artist can do wonders for the camera but at the end of the day it's only a mask.

You can use some oats to cleanse your face, some yogurt to moisturise it. Failing that, you can buy pre-packaged alternatives at your local drug store. But don't let the jargon and sales pitches make you part with the better part of your wages to shrink those wrinkles. Your skin is fairly elastic but it gradually shapes itself into the expression it most commonly wears. Try smiling a little more often and as you get older your face will have its own characteristic charm.

Beauty really does come from within.


Tom Glaister is the founder and editor of - The Online Travel Guide for the Free and Funky Traveller.

The cleansers and toners that didn't feature chunky images of fresh fruit on the packaging were instead covered with drawings of complex amino acid chains....

Copa Hair System Marketers To Pay $300,000

GoodTimes Entertainment and GT Merchandising & Licensing Corporation (GTM&L) have agreed to settle federal charges that they made unsubstantiated claims for the Copa Hair System and placed unauthorized charges on credit cards of some purchasers of Copa and of Richard Simmons Blast Off the Pounds products.

The Federal Trade Commission also charged the two New York City firms with violating the Commissions Mail Order Rule by failing to ship merchandise within the promised time period.

In addition to requiring payment of $100,000 in civil penalties and $200,000 in consumer redress, the settlement prohibits GoodTimes and GTM&L; from making the challenged claims for the products without adequate substantiation, and from violating the Mail Order Rule.

Copa is a popular hair-straightening product targeted primarily to African-American women and sold mainly through infomercials hosted by dancer Debbie Allen. It is also sold through the defendants Web site at

The FTC alleged that defendants GoodTimes and GTM&L; marketed Copa as having unique hair-strengthening properties. Its active ingredient, however, according to the FTC, may weaken hair while it straightens it.

Further, through the use of before and after pictures, the defendants allegedly implied that consumers would experience hair straightening with just one use. The FTC charges that, instead, multiple applications may be necessary to achieve the depicted results. In addition, the FTC alleges that the defendants did not ship the product within the promised time frames, and enrolled consumers in continuity programs without their consent.

The defendants also marketed Richard Simmons Blast Off The Pounds weight-loss program consisting of videotapes and Blast & Go Vitamins,sold via television and Internet advertising. According to the FTC, the defendants on occasion charged consumers for additional products without their consent.

The consent decree to settle the charges requires that the defendants obtain consumers consent before they are enrolled in any continuing program. It prohibits the defendants from billing or charging any consumer who has not specifically agreed to purchase the defendants products. The settlement also requires the defendants to have competent and reliable scientific evidence for any representations they make regarding the performance, benefits, or efficacy of a drug, food, cosmetic, or dietary supplement.

The consent decree prohibits the defendants from, among other things, making unsubstantiated claims regarding Copas strengthening properties and requires the defendants affirmatively to disclose, in Copa advertising using before and after pictures, the number of applications needed to produce the depicted result.

GoodTimes Entertainment and GT Merchandising & Licensing Corporation (GTM&L) have agreed to settle federal charges that they made unsubstantiated claims fo...