The cosmetics industry is a $50 billion giant that includes products ranging from skin moisturizer and makeup to toothpaste and deodorant. With such a wide variety of products, most of which use a variety of chemicals to achieve their desired effect, one would think that the industry would be meticulously regulated by the Food & Drugs Administration (FDA), the government agency in charge of protecting public health by keeping products that we rely on for food, medicine, and beauty up to code. Except, as consumers turned victims of products such as Wen are discovering, the FDA has very little regulatory power over the cosmetics industry. The FDA doesn’t approve cosmetic products, nor are cosmetic companies required to report any adverse effects that may arise during trials. Unless a product is mislabeled or contaminated, the FDA’s hands are legally tied. Even brands that are safe may be plagued by scandals that could isolate their consumer base because of racism, cultural insensitivity, and bullying. But beauty lovers aren’t at a complete loss- beauty bloggers and average consumers alike are taking to the internet to pull receipts on bad brands and irresponsible founders that are otherwise allowed to roam free. Here are four of those brands:
Jeffree Star is best known for his popular makeup line and biting takedown of Kylie Jenner over the damaged lip kits received by customers, including himself. But, thanks to former best friend Kat Von D, Star has also become known for his racism, rude responses to negative reviews, and failure to pay the artist of his logo. In a 14-minute long video, Von D detailed his history of bad behavior, a history that has been corroborated by fans and enemies alike, many of whom can trace the behavior back to his MySpace days. And if the racism and attitude aren’t enough to ward away customers, maybe his broken highlighters are.
The history of Lime Crime and its founder Doe Deere (legal name Xenia Vorotova) is dramatic, to say the least. As early as 2009, the company was being accused of repackaging wholesale cosmetics and lying about it in order to jack up prices. Like Star, Deere doesn’t take kindly to negative reviews. Unlike Star, she prefers threatening legal action over tweets or YouTube comments. In 2012, Lime Crime released a palette called China Doll, which relied on racist stereotypes for marketing and packaging (it’s no longer available on the website after complaints about cultural appropriation.) More recently, customers who bought from the Lime Crime website found themselves the victims of credit card fraud because of the site’s lack of security. As if that wasn’t enough, the FDA recently issued a letter to Lime Crime, warning against the use of a chemical that hasn’t been approved for use on lips in a lipstick. Although the company has since claimed it a labeling error that has been fixed, there’s no way for the FDA to ensure the product’s safety given their limited authority over cosmetics. Use this brand at your own risk.
Kat Von D
In case you thought that her criticizing Jeffree Star meant that she was innocent, Kat Von D has a record herself of anti-Semitism and offensive lipstick names. Although not all of the allegations concerning anti-Semitism can be proved- she vehemently denies that she gave her former coworker and fellow Miami Ink star, Ami, an autographed photo with a slur and a swastika signature, she did date Jesse James. Pictures of James wearing swastikas, performing salutes, and laughing as his friends and lovers do the same have surfaced on more than one occasion. Although Von D and James’s relationship is long over, Von D never addressed her ex- fiance’s anti-Semitism (let’s also not forget how long she was friends with Jeffree Star before she addressed his racism and otherwise bad behavior). Aside from her associations, Kat Von D has fallen in hot water for lipsticks names such as Underage Red and Celebutard, the latter of which was pulled from Sephora and has since disappeared from her lipstick line entirely.
MAC is a giant in the industry, unlike the indie brands that have been featured in this article thus far. But because MAC is so big, it has a social responsibility to represent its diverse consumer base. On more than one occasion, however, the brand has reached beyond insensitive into outwardly offensive- take, for example, the 2010 MAC-Rodarte collaboration fiasco. Inspired by a road trip, the collaborative line featured makeup inspired by Juarez. Innocent enough, except the line featured product names such as Factory and Ghost Town, with colors such as an eyeshadow that looked like blood running down concrete- which many found offensive since the town is plagued by violence. The line was pulled and both companies started a charity to benefit victims of violence in Juarez. Unfortunately, MAC didn’t leave its insensitivity in 2010. Their most recent line, Vibe Tribe, features patterns and colors that look a lot like a stereotype of Navajo culture. Although the brand swears that the line is inspired by festivals and not by Native culture, that’s not very comforting since festivals are known to be rife with cultural appropriation.
Beauty brands are bound to make the occasional blunder, but these four have proven themselves to be consistently insensitive and sometimes outwardly offensive. Buyer beware.