The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry: The Most Shocking Cosmetic Company Controversies - One "Beautiful" Blog

The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry: The Most Shocking Cosmetic Company Controversies

Cosmetics are made for beauty, but there’s nothing attractive about these product and manufacturer snafus. Check out the cosmetics controversies that reveal how beauty can become very, very ugly.

What’s in a Name? – Rodart’s Affiliation with the Site of Mexican Mass Murders

How would you like to wear makeup named after the murder capital of Mexico? Somehow M.A.C. Cosmetics and fashion house Rodarte thought it would be a good idea to launch a limited edition cosmetics collection inspired by Ciudad Juárez, the Mexican border city notorious for drug wars and the rape and murder of hundreds of young women. The makeup line, which has been decried as tasteless and insensitive, featured shades with names like “Ghost Town,” “Sleepless,” and “Quinceañera.” Needless to say, the products will be getting new names.

Sins of Omission – American Eagle and Others Keeping Chemical Secrets

Recent lab tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics revealed a total of 38 secret chemicals in 17 name-brand fragrance products. These potentially harmful compounds have been detected in tests but do not have to be listed on labels because of a loophole in the FDA cosmetics labeling law. American Eagle Seventy Seven contained the most secret chemicals (24), followed by Coco Mademoiselle Chanel (18), Britney Spears Curious (17), and Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio (17).

Price Fixing Gets a Slap on the Wrist – Chanel, Dior, and Others Taking Your Dough

In 2004, retailers and cosmetics manufacturers settled a class-action lawsuit for price fixing, a violation of anti-trust laws. The manufacturers involved in the suit included Boucheron, Chanel, Christian Dior, Clarins, Conopco, Estée Lauder, Givenchy, Guerlain, and L’Oréal. Though the companies denied any wrongdoing, they agreed to give away $175 million of cosmetics to consumers on a first-come, first-served basis for a few days in 2009. Most shoppers, unaware of the nature of the lawsuit, were just happy to snag some swag.

Lethal Lashes – Lash-Lure’s Evil Eye

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, prior to the enactment of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, more than a dozen women were blinded and one woman died from using Lash-Lure, an aniline-based eyelash and eyebrow dye. Lash-Lure contained paraphenylenediamine, a chemical that caused blisters, abscesses, and ulcers on the face, eyelids, and eyes.

Lookin’ Good for Jesus – Blue Q’s Blasphemy

According to the company Blue Q, its Lookin’ Good for Jesus cosmetics line is “guaranteed to help you be worthy and get noticed by the King of Kings.” The company has come under fire for religious insensitivity and blasphemy; the offending products were even pulled off shelves in Singapore. The products, which help you “get tight with Christ,” picture a white Jesus flanked by sexy, adoring women. The line is featured alongside such brands as “Total Bitch” and “Cute as Hell.”

“An Unapproved and Misbranded Drug” – Jan Marini’s Eye Opening Deception

In 2007, U.S. marshals seized more than 12,000 tubes of Jan Marini Skin Research’s Age Intervention Eyelash, a product designed to promote eyelash growth, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined it was a potentially dangerous “adulterated cosmetic.” The “unapproved and misbranded drug” contained bimatoprost, an active ingredient in an FDA-approved drug to treat elevated pressure inside the eye. Users of the mascara may suffer from swelling of the retina and optic nerve damage, which can lead to decreased vision and even blindness.

Murdered for Anti-Wrinkle Cream – European Cosmetics Crimes

Members of a gang in Peru were arrested last year for allegedly murdering dozens of people in order to extract and sell their fat and tissue for cosmetic uses in Europe. The liquid human fat is reportedly worth $60,000 a gallon. Police said they suspect the fat was being sold to cosmetics and pharmaceutical companies in Europe but have not confirmed the connection.

Cancer-Causing Cosmetics – Johnson & Johnson’s Powder Shake Up

A woman in South Dakota is suing Johnson & Johnson on the grounds that its talcum-containing products, which she used for hygiene purposes for about 30 years, led to her 2006 ovarian cancer diagnosis. The complaint alleges that research from 1988 to 1992 found that frequent application of talc-based powder in the genital area increases the risk of ovarian cancer, but Johnson & Johnson failed to inform consumers of the risk. Instead, the global manufacturer actively promoted female use of talc-based products such as Shower to Shower and Johnson’s Baby Powder.

Vivisection Investigation – Professional Laboratory and Research Services Animal Cruelty

The latest in the controversial practice of animal testing: Professional Laboratory and Research Services has been shut down after an undercover video revealed workers cruelly treating dogs, cats, and rabbits. The North Carolina lab was hired by major pharmaceutical firms like Bayer and Eli Lilly to test animal care products. One scene of the horrific video shows an employee purposely letting a cat grasp a fence with its claw before yanking it in an attempt to rip off its nails.

Mercurial Madness – Paula Dorf’s Mascara Misinformation

As a result of the well-publicized effects of mercury – including brain damage – most cosmetics companies have removed the chemical from their products. But the mercury preservative thimerosal is still alive and well in Paula Dorf mascara. So when you wash off this mascara, you’re also treating your eyes and face to a dose of mercury.

The truth about cosmetics can be downright disgusting. Is it enough to make you want to go au naturel?

~Robyn Tellefsen

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  1. very nice post for me thanks for share 🙂

  2. The post about the mascara from Jan Marini containing bimatoprost doesn’t make sense to me. Latisse, a popular-selling prescription medication used to grow eyelashes, is FDA approved and it is 100% bimatoprost so I don’t understand the claim that it’s a ‘potentially dangerous adulterated cosmetic’ when it was in Jan Marini mascara. What changed since then?

  3. Maureen: The issue is that it is misbranded, so it doesn’t come along with the warning regarding side effects. Like selling cigarettes without the warning, and to minors.

  4. Wow, I have never heard of the Looking Good for Jesus cosmetics line. That is the most bizarre thing I have ever heard of!

  5. powder = cancer scare is not new. it has been around for the past 2 decades +

  6. Optometrist Jack says:

    Latisse is a prescription drug, so an optometrist, ophthalmologist, or other doctor has to feel you are healthy enough and will not have a dangerous reaction to it, and they will monitor you for any side effects. As the article said, the issue was that it was an “unapproved and misbranded drug”, not that the active ingredient should never be used.


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