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Navigating the 'Clean' Beauty Landscape: Transparency, Lawsuits, and the Call for Regulation

We're all familiar with "clean" beauty, where products are marketed as sustainable, nontoxic, and ethically made. However, consumers are increasingly scrutinizing these industry claims. The surge in popularity of "clean beauty," projected to reach $15.3 billion by 2028, has not only attracted the attention of climate-conscious consumers but also raised legal challenges.

Lawsuits Against Retailers

These legal battles underscore the industry's struggle to define and adhere to the ambiguous term "clean." The disconnect between companies' interpretations of "clean" and consumer expectations has fueled skepticism and prompted litigation. A lawsuit against Sephora and one against Target contain complaints about misleading labels, consumer expectations, and the use of banned toxic ingredients

One clear takeaway from these lawsuits--consumers are paying attention. They're reading labels and looking into ingredients. They're setting their expectations based on marketing claims.

Amidst this uncertainty, some advocate for regulatory intervention, urging the FTC to provide clarity on what constitutes "clean" in beauty products. While the FTC's Green Guides offer guidance, they are not legally binding, leaving the industry in a grey area.

The Independent Beauty Association has submitted a letter to the FTC, seeking more explicit definitions in the Green Guides, which influence how companies can portray their products as environmentally friendly.

Why Use This Controversial Marketing Term?

Despite these legal challenges, "clean beauty" remains a powerful marketing force, especially among environmentally conscious Gen Z and millennial consumers. Brands are navigating a delicate balance, striving to stay competitive while avoiding legal entanglements but they know that using "clean" in their marketing means big business.

A McKinsey/NielsenIQ study shows that in two-thirds of product categories, products that made these types of claims averaged 28% cumulative growth over the past five-year period, versus 20% for products that made no such claims.

Protect Your Brand From Scrutiny

While the term "clean" has its business perks, you'll want to keep your brand out of consumer scrutiny and legal complications. Here are some marketing tips:

1. Define and Specify "Clean"

Clearly define what "clean" means for your brand. Specify the criteria and standards you follow regarding ingredients, production processes, and ethical sourcing. Transparency builds trust.

2. Scientific Substantiation

Ensure that your claims are backed by scientific evidence. If you're asserting that your product is free from certain ingredients, have robust testing and documentation to support those assertions.

3. Educate Consumers

Provide educational content that explains your brand's definition of "clean" and the rationale behind your choices. Informed consumers are more likely to trust your brand.

4. Legal Review

Consult legal experts to review your marketing materials and claims. Legal professionals can help identify potential areas of concern and guide you in crafting language that minimizes legal risks.

5. Monitor Industry Standards

Stay informed about evolving industry standards and regulatory guidelines. Regularly review and update your practices to align with emerging expectations.

6. Opt for a Consumer Perception Study

Want to know how consumers perceive your "clean" product? The best way to obtain legitimate marketing claims based on these observations is to enroll your product in a consumer perception study.

Companies are advised to be cautious with claims, considering factors like disclaimers and clinical research as litigation risks loom. While some call for regulatory clarity, brands must balance staying competitive with mitigating legal risks in the "clean beauty" landscape.

As consumers increasingly demand transparency and authenticity, the beauty industry must adapt, possibly reshaping its approach to product claims and marketing strategies. The ultimate goal is not just to survive legal scrutiny but to foster long-term consumer confidence in the "clean" beauty landscape and protect consumer health.

The FTC will soon be updating the Green Guides for the first time in over a decade. While the Green Guides themselves aren’t enforceable, the FTC can bring enforcement actions against misleading marketing. There will be more news on this topic soon. Stay tuned!

Want to stand out in your own unique way, backed by scientific evidence?

No need to rely on "clean" marketing tactics when you have scientific evidence. We can help you create product claims that are based on your specific product. Talk with us today about how to get started with a clinical trial or a consumer perception study.

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