If you don't have Rodan + Fields in your makeup bag, you've definitely considered it from all the Facebook ads.
Even if you don't own anything by Rodan + Fields, think about the name carefully for a second. Yes, it IS the skincare brand your friends on Facebook—some of whom you haven't seen since those awkward bar reunions over Thanksgiving break in college—are selling.
Market research provider Euromonitor International Ltd. recently announced that Rodan + Fields was the biggest skincare provider in the United States for the second year in a row. According to the company's chief financial advisor, Chris Newman, Rodan + Fields raked in over $1.5 billion in revenue last year alone. The direct-to-consumer approach is why you always see the products peddled by random friends on Facebook. The technique employs different marketing levels, including these 200,000 "consultants," to get the word out about the brand's products.
Following this recent good news from the company about out-pacing competitors, Rodan + Fields is facing a potential class-action lawsuit over its Lash Boost eyelash serum, which was reportedly responsible for bringing in more than $200 million in sales the first year it was released.
According to Racked, which obtained a copy of of the complaint, four plaintiffs say Lash Boost caused harmful effects—like burning, pain, swelling, and crusting—after they applied the product to the intended spot on their upper eyelids. The complaint argues that Rodan + Fields misleads customers by withholding information about potential adverse reactions to a particular ingredient used in the product: isopropyl cloprostenate.
This isn't the first time the skincare company has faced backlash for using isopropyl cloprostenate in the lash serum without publicizing that information. On Jun 10, 2017, a customer wrote a review on Rodan + Field's Lash Brow serum, titled "Amazing until this happened."
The customer details a reaction to Rodan + Field's Lash Boost, an experience that began with incredible results but quickly soured when she developed what she first thought was a stye. When the condition worsened, she went to an ophthalmologist and discovered a more serious health concern.
"Apparently I don't have a stye but a full abscess under my lid with an infection that spread to my cheek and ear. If left untreated I'd end up potentially in the ER if it spread to my brain," she wrote.
"My entire right face is infected and I'm on antibiotics," she continued. "The doctor said he sees this with ANY lash enhancing product as the pores on the other side of your lid can get blocked. To reiterate ANY lash enhancing product can cause this reaction. My only beef is that this needs to be a warning side effect on the disclosure sheet."
Her complaint did get resolved two days later, which she detailed in an update to her review acknowledging that she could be a rare case. The concerning part with her update, however, is that she gives Rodan + Fields the benefit of the doubt in that, "Sometimes with products if people don't self report the company never knows this can happen," and ends on a hopeful note for readers to "wish me luck that my goal of putting this as a potential side effect on their packaging is accepted. It's looking really positive right now that this will happen."
Other reviews since this June 2017 issue have included concerns over sharp pain under eyes, droopy and darkened eyelids, cysts, and even "permanent eye discomfort."
As the June 2017 reviewer notes, many lash-enhancing products can cause adverse reactions and, on the flip side, many people reap the promised benefits of such products without encountering the darker side of things. Lash Boost is not the first, and it's far from the only product like it, to employ isopropyl cloprostenate without any sort of disclaimer in a way that follows FDA guidelines.
In 2011, the FDA contacted brands RapidLash, NeuLash, and NeaveauBrow, about a similar issue with isopropyl cloprostenate, saying the products constituted unapproved and misbranded drugs, adulterated and misbranded cosmetics, and that the products needed to follow a new approval process.
Considering Rodan + Fields not only has own its history of receiving complaints about suspicious branding tactics but that competing eye-lash serums have had the FDA intervene about transparent labeling, it seems unlikely the skin-care brand didn't know what it was doing.
A representative from Rodan + Fields responded to the current claims against the serum, telling Racked:
"The Company vigorously denies the allegations in the Complaint, and stands behind the safety and efficacy of Lash Boost. We are going to let the specifics of our legal defense play out in court. Lash Boost is intended for use as a cosmetic and as such, has been consistently advertised as improving the appearance of eyelashes. As with any cosmetic, Lash Boost may cause irritation in some users, especially if it is misused. R+F provides clear directions to users, including those who experience irritations. Many of the allegations involve unrelated products, including prescription products that have different ingredients and formulations."
While this situation is still unfolding, it's an important reminder always to read the ingredients on product packing rather than trust claims are honest or all-encompassing. Even common phrases like "hypoallergenic" and "dermatologist tested" can rarely, if ever, be trusted at face value.