Posted by Jessica Wasik.
Two of the three articles linked explore the case of Jenny Mitchell, who after years of using L’Oreal hair relaxers and hair straighteners, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer which was “directly and proximately caused by her regular and prolonged exposure to phthalates and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in defendants’ hair care products” (Krawitz).
Personal injury lawyers from Stark & Stark took on her case and stated the young 30-year-old’s feelings of having the chance to be a mother stripped away from her due to false advertisement of the products. Unfortunately, this is not the only lawsuit that L’Oreal is facing for “litigation focused on false advertising, consumer protection violations, and deceptive statements made in marketing and ESG reports,” as reports from March 2022 state many of the company’s mascaras were found with PFAS in them (Gardella).
L’Oreal being amongst the biggest cosmetics companies, owning not only their L’Oreal products, but also many companies such as Khiels, Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent, Ralph Lauren, Maison Margiela, Garnier, and many others, has presented itself an issue a multitude of times. From using harmful chemicals to testing on animals and refusing to make statements on these issues, L’Oreal is successfully able to slide these issues under the rug. Although it should be, in lack of better words, common sense, that a company out of decency and care for their customers warns them about their use of harmful chemicals and their side effects, it is often not practiced by big companies such as L’Oreal. Due to this misinformation, or lack of information, many consumers have found ways to explore these side effects themselves – by either researching the formulas of their favorite products, or by trusting phone applications such as Yuka which allow a person to scan the barcodes of products for a description of the chemicals and a rating of how “clean” these products are based on their formulas. Although both techniques have flaws – both from people researching and not understanding the different chemical names and chemical compositions certain chemicals may have, and Yuka not accurately defining the concentrations of the ingredients – they are steps in the right direction.
Although L’Oreal should be held accountable and pay for the damages of Mitchell’s treatments, are there legal advancements that will be made (or can be made) to prevent big companies from mass producing harmful products, or is it not regulated enough? The PFAS discussed earlier were not researched earlier due to not being on the ingredient list. This disqualifies the argument that the consumer is held responsible for researching the ingredients of their cosmetics, considering even a trained researcher would have trouble inferring the presence of PFAS unless otherwise looking for them.
Jessica is a chemistry major at Seton Hall University, Class of 2024.
L’Oreal Hair Straightening Products Linked with Uterine Cancer (natlawreview.com)
Woman Sues L’Oreal Over Claim Hair Straightener Spurred Uterine Cancer (usnews.com)
L’Oreal PFAS Lawsuit ESG Marketing (natlawreview.com)