Beauty and Personal Care Product Injuries: How to Seek Compensation

Here’s what you need to know to seek compensation from the manufacturer or retailer of dangerous personal care and beauty products.

Americans spend more than $56 billion on beauty and personal care products each year. Half of that is spent on hair and skin care, followed by cosmetics, fragrances, and more. ¹

Men and women can suffer injuries ranging from mild skin irritation, to permanent scarring, and even death from defective and dangerous personal care products.

If beauty or personal care products have hurt you or a loved one, you have the right to expect compensation for your injuries, and pain and suffering.

Regulated Personal Care Products

Most beauty and personal care products are regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) under a broad category of “cosmetics.” Most products that are used on the skin, hair, or face fall under the “cosmetics” umbrella.

The rules for cosmetics are different than for drug products, although consumer safety is the top priority for any substance regulated by the FDA.

Types of products considered “cosmetics” by the FDA:

  • Tattoos and permanent makeup
  • Tanning products, including sunless tanners
  • Sunscreens
  • Face and body cleansers, moisturizers and other skin lotions and creams
  • Deodorants and makeup
  • Baby lotions and oils
  • Hair care products, dyes, conditioners, straighteners/relaxers, perms
  • Hair removal creams
  • Nail polishes
  • Shaving products
  • Perfumes and colognes
  • Face paints and temporary tattoos

People of all ages and gender use personal care products. There are thousands of beauty and personal care products on the market today, including soaps, shampoos, creams, lotions, make-up, toothpaste, deodorant, and more.

Most are safe to use. Unfortunately, some of these products can be dangerous, causing allergic reactions, infections, irreversible skin damage, and more.

FDA Recalls and Announcements

The FDA does not have the legal authority to recall personal care products. However, the FDA does monitor safety standards for cosmetics.

When a problem is discovered with a personal care product, the manufacturer or distributor is urged to alert the public. If the cosmetic company drags its feet or refuses to issue a recall, the FDA will alert the public about the dangerous product.

The  FDA does share voluntary recalls, like this announcement of a voluntary recall of some Claire’s cosmetics due to positive testing for asbestos.

Visit the FDA Cosmetic Recalls & Alerts page for the latest announcements.

Personal Care Product Laws

The United States has laws on the books going back to 1938 that include regulatory oversight of beauty and personal care products. Today there are pending bills to expand the role of the FDA in governing the safe manufacture and distribution of cosmetics in the U.S.

Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act

The Federal Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act is a set of laws passed by Congress allowing the FDA to regulate, among other things, beauty products and personal care products.

The FFDCA defines cosmetics as:

“[A]rticles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.”

Technically, the FDA doesn’t approve personal care products, but because the FFDCA prohibits the marketing of adulterated or misbranded cosmetics in the U.S., it can remove cosmetics from the market that are improperly labeled or contain unsafe ingredients.

The FDA does have the right to inspect personal care product manufacturing facilities to make sure products are not contaminated.

Personal Care Product Safety Act

Introduced to the Senate in May 2017, this Act would amend the FFDCA to require cosmetic companies to register with the FDA and to submit to the FDA detailed lists of personal care product ingredients.

The Act gives the FDA the authority to suspend distribution of products with unsafe ingredients and to issue recalls of hazardous products.

The Act has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

State Regulations of Personal Care Products

In addition to federal laws, some states are beginning to pass legislation authorizing stricter regulations for personal care products, especially products intended for use by children.

  • California got the ball rolling in 2005 with the California State Cosmetics Act. The Act requires cosmetic companies to disclose product ingredients that are found on California or federal lists of substances known to cause cancer or birth defects.
  • Similarly, Washington state passed the Children’s Safe Products Act that prohibits the sale of personal care products containing lead, cadmium, phthalates, or other chemicals that could harm children.
  • In 2013, Minnesota passed a bill banning the use of formaldehyde in children’s products.
  • In January 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a Consumer Right to Know Act. The proposed act would authorize state agencies to develop regulations forcing manufacturers to disclose toxic ingredients on product labels.

Product Liability Claims and Lawsuits

If a beauty care product has injured you, you may have the basis of a product liability claim. Your injury claim may be against:

  • The manufacturer of the product
  • The retail store or website where you purchased the product
  • The beauty salon that applied the product
  • A combination of the above

Companies that make and sell beauty and personal care products have a legal duty of care to do everything reasonably possible to prevent harm to consumers. When they fail in their duty, and people are injured, the companies are negligent.

Injured consumers, who can prove the manufacturer or retailer was negligent, have the right to seek damages. Damages include medical bills, out-of-pocket medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

When it comes to injuries caused by beauty and personal care products, most courts rely on the legal standard of strict product liability.

To win claim under strict liability, you have to prove:

  1. The product was sold in an unreasonably dangerous condition.
  2. You used the product according to the directions provided.
  3. The product was the direct and proximate cause of your injury.
  4. You have verifiable damages.

Secondary Parties: Retailers and Beauty Salons

The primary party in a product liability claim is usually the manufacturer. However, the retailer, whether a physical store, website, or beauty salon, may also be liable for selling the dangerous product.

In claims against retailers, you’ll also have to prove the retailer was negligent in the sale or application of the product.

If a beauty salon purchased a product from the manufacturer, then used it on customers without knowing it was dangerous, they probably won’t be liable for your damages.

However, if the salon continued using the product after being notified it was dangerous, they can likely be held responsible for injuries the product causes.

Negligent retailers and beauty salons who put their customers in danger may all be held liable for any resulting damages. You may be able to sue the manufacturer, retailer, and beauty salon separately, and recover damages from each of them.

Not sure who’s liable for your injuries? Talk to a personal injury attorney to find out if you have a valid personal care product claim.

Evidence for Product Liability Claims

Remember that manufacturers have to do everything reasonably possible to avoid causing harm to customers. However, manufacturers are not automatically responsible for every harm that occurs while using their products.

Consumers who suffer burns, scarring, or cancer from a personal care product are unquestionably harmed. Other types of “harm” might be more difficult to prove.

If you used a night cream and didn’t wake up with “more youthful, radiant skin” it might be hard to prove you’ve suffered any damages that justify financial compensation.

On the other hand, manufacturers are often sued for making false claims about their personal care products.

For example, a pending lawsuit against Tarte, Inc. alleges “false, deceptive, and misleading” advertising of cosmetics as “natural” when the beauty products contain synthetic ingredients.

Types of Evidence

If a beauty or personal care product has injured you, you’ll need as much evidence as you can gather. The better your evidence, the stronger your injury claim will be.

Save the Product and Packaging: Save any remaining product, or at least the empty container and any packaging. Put the container in a zip bag or plastic box and don’t let anyone handle it until you’ve talked to an attorney.

If a product used at a salon hurt you, ask the salon owner for the empty container. If you can’t get the container, ask for the name and brand of the product, and the contact information for the salon’s supplier.

Also, save purchase receipts for the product, or the service that involved the product.

Get Medical Attention: Injuries from personal care products should be evaluated and confirmed by a doctor as soon as possible. Request copies of all related medical records and bills.

Save receipts for out-of-pocket expenses for medical care, and related costs. If you had to buy a wig because your hair fell out after a product was applied, that’s a related expense.

Take Photographs: Take photographs and video of your injuries when they appeared, and continue to take pictures until you’ve recovered.

Talk to Potential Witnesses: Witness statements can be very important to your case. Family and friends can provide a written statement of your condition before and after use of the harmful product.

Prove Your Lost Wages: If you missed time from work because of your injuries, ask your employer for a lost wages statement.

What An Attorney Can Do For You

If you’ve recovered from minor injuries and have little or no medical bills, you probably won’t get very far with a product liability claim for cosmetics.

You can always talk with an attorney to help you decide if you should file a claim or lawsuit.

In any case, if you suffered an injury from a beauty or personal care product, you should report your experience to regulators.

Submit complaints about dangerous personal care products on the FDA Cosmetic Complaint page.

Beauty and personal care product manufacturers are huge, multimillion-dollar corporations with powerful legal teams. You may have a very strong claim, with excellent proof of a bad product, but you’ll need your own expert legal support to win a fair amount of compensation.

Manufacturers won’t hesitate to argue that your injury was not caused by their product, but was instead caused by product misuse or your own negligence.

Sharing Some Blame for Your Injuries

A personal care product can be dangerous, but if you didn’t follow the product directions to the letter, the manufacturer’s attorneys will jump at the chance to use that against you.

Fortunately, only a few states use pure contributory negligence rules for injury claims. In those states, you won’t get a dime if the manufacturer can persuade a jury you were as little as one percent at fault for your injuries.

In comparative fault states, the amount you could win is reduced in proportion to your share of fault.

In some states, you can lose everything if you are equally to blame (called the 50% rule) or more to blame (called the 51% rule) for your injuries.

Your attorney can make sure you aren’t cheated out of a settlement, even when you might have shared some of the fault for your injuries.

Watch Out for State Deadlines

You have the right to seek compensation for injuries caused by beauty and personal care products, but you can lose that right if you miss your state’s statute of limitations.

A statute of limitations is the legal deadline to either settle an injury claim or file a lawsuit against the product manufacturer, the retailer, or the salon who knowingly used a harmful beauty product.

Statutes typically start to “run” on the date you were injured. Each state has its own deadline, some as short as one year.

If the statute runs out before you’ve filed a lawsuit, you will forfeit your right to seek any compensation, no matter how seriously you’re injured.

Personal Care Product Class Actions

Sometimes, beauty and skin care products remain on the market while slowly causing injuries to thousands of consumers. Your injury may not be serious enough to warrant a stand-alone case.

When beauty and personal care product manufacturers sell a product that causes harm to hundreds or even thousands of people, you might be eligible for compensation from a class action settlement.

Attorneys who handle class actions have the skills and financial ability to take on big corporations.

With class actions, there’s strength in numbers. When the lawsuit is either settled out of court or won at trial, you will be entitled to a share of the settlement or court award.

Case Summary: Talc Injury Class Action Verdict 

A class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of 22 women who developed ovarian cancer linked to prolonged use of talcum powder products manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.

In June 2018, the jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.69 billion to the 22 women and their families.

The women allege that Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower powder contained asbestos, and the manufacturer failed to warn consumers of the health risk in using the products.

Johnson & Johnson disputes the claim of asbestos in their products, and plans to appeal.

An attorney will help you decide if you have a good claim against the product manufacturer, the store where the product was sold, or the salon where the harmful product was applied.

Most attorneys don’t charge for your first consultation. If you have a strong case, your attorney will represent you on a contingency fee basis, meaning the attorney’s fees won’t be paid unless your case settles or you win a court verdict.

There is no obligation, and it costs nothing to find out what an experienced personal injury attorney can do for you.

Personal Care Product Injury Questions & Answers

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>