How many times have you bought a product to get the flawless skin promised in its ad only to discover that, after applying it, you don't look perfect?
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One Orthodox Jewish woman is suing makeup giant Lancome (owned by parent company L'Oreal), claiming that its "24-hour" foundation doesn't last a full 24 hours, preventing her from looking flawless through the Sabbath, reports the New York Post.
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Rorie Weisberg of Monsey, New York claims she was tricked into believing that the company's new Teint Idole Ultra 24H provides a full day and night of "lasting perfection" as the product's website states. Her lawsuit reads: "The 24-hour claim was central to plaintiff's purchase decision, as a long-lasting makeup assists with her dual objectives of compliance with religious law and enhancement to her natural appearance." According to court papers, Weisberg "is an Orthodox Jew and abides by Jewish law by not applying makeup from sundown on Friday until nighttime on Saturday." Weisberg, who views the 24-hour promise as key in helping her abide by Jewish law, alleges that the $45 foundation "faded significantly" overnight. Her suit seeks unspecified damages from Lancome and L'Oréal on behalf of herself and all the people who brought the product. She also wants Lancome to create a "corrective advertising campaign."
In an email to Yahoo! Shine, L'Oreal spokesperson Rebecca Caruso wrote: "Lancôme strongly believes that this lawsuit has no merit and stands proudly behind our products. We will strenuously contest these allegations in court. Consistent with our practice and policy, however, as this matter is currently in litigation, we cannot comment further."
Whether or not this case has merit, it's certainly not surprising that what's written on a product's packaging may not translate to real life. In 2011, Time magazine reported that a British watchdog group cracked down on two L'Oreal foundation ads (one starring Julia Roberts for Lancome and the other with Christy Turlington for Maybelline) for trying to pass off airbrushed models as the result of using their respective products. The ads were ultimately banned.
The following year, the FDA sent a warning letter to Avon for making claims that its Anew anti-aging products were "formulated to fortify damaged tissue with new collagen," "helped tighten the connections between skin's layers," and is "the at-home answer to wrinkle-filling injections." The FDA stated that the products qualified as drugs, not makeup, and failed to safely and effectively address the issues they advertised.
And according to a report by ABC News, in a 2012 landmark case involving Lancome's anti-wrinkle cream Genifique, the company was hit with an FDA warning for exaggerating claims such as the product "boosts the activity of genes." The FDA said only drug companies are allowed to make such claims.
So how can the average consumer navigate their drugstore makeup aisle? With so many alluring catchphrases -- Oil-free! Flawless! Long-lasting! All natural! Organic! -- it's tough to feel confident that what you're buying is the real deal or if it's even necessary. "Makeup companies generally aren't really monitored on what wording they put on their packaging but the Genifique case is starting to change that," says Manhattan-based dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, M.D. "The general definition of a cosmetic is a product that cleanses, beautifies or alters appearance. But if it promises to treat a medical condition such as removing cellulite or erasing wrinkles, that's considered a drug, not makeup. In that case, it's subject to expensive and time-consuming clinical trials that may result in the product requiring a prescription. If so, it wouldn't be sold in the makeup aisle." Here's the meaning behind some of the most popular claims.
Anti-aging: "Makeup companies use this as a broad category for anything that makes the skin look younger," says Mariwalla. "But look carefully at the package: If the company is following the rules, they'll write that it 'reduces the appearance of' or 'the look of' wrinkles. However, if it 'gets rid of' or 'eradicates' fine lines, that's making a medical claim which isn't allowed if the product isn't classified as a drug."
Natural or organic: "It's not really possible for store-bought makeup or anything that promises a shelf life to be natural," says Mariwalla. "Most of these products have artificial dye or some preservatives. For example, Burt's Bees claims to be natural because they're sourced from beeswax but anything that's colored contains chemicals."
Oil-free: "Many creams and foundations that claim to be oil-free aren't because the oil gives cream its texture," says Mariwalla. A good way to test whether a product is truly oily-free: Drop a dab of it on a high-quality piece of stationary, then wipe it away. It should leave an ring regardless but if the ring bleeds, spreads, or grows bigger, the product isn't oil-free.
SPF: "Right now, makeup, sprays, and towelettes are undergoing a process to determine whether they contain adequate amounts of sunscreen to protect people from the sun," says Mariwalla. "As a dermatologist, I would recommend that people use real sunscreen (anything above 30 SPF) and makeup that boasts SPF usually contains only 15. It should also be reapplied every three hours."
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