Image: Peter Thomas Roth

Millennial and Gen-Z consumers are putting down their color cosmetics, and picking up buzzy ingredient-packed skincare products. That is the narrative that has plagued the $530 billion-plus global beauty industry in recent years, as the skincare market – which was valued at a smaller $135 billion as of 2018, per financial research and analysis firm Trefis – has experienced growth of nearly 60 percent over the past decade. 

With such burgeoning growth in mind, the market for skincare products is crowded and competitive, and manufacturers are forced to “continually attempt to gain market share by touting the latest ingredients in their products and marketing them as being capable of improving consumers’ appearance.” The problem with that? At least one company is allegedly engaged in “a long term advertising campaign to trick consumers into believing that many of their products contain cutting-edge scientific technologies that will offer younger, healthier skin, when [the company] knows that their claims are false” and that the “products are scientifically incapable of achieving the promised results.”

That is what Kari Miller and Samantha Paulson assert in the class action lawsuit that they filed against Peter Thomas Roth, LLC (“Roth”) in a California state court in December 2018,  accusing the skincare company of making false claims about the capabilities of their products,” and running afoul of the law in the process, in an attempt to cater to the rising demand for anti-aging products among consumers. 

Specifically, Miller and Paulson state that two of Roth’s product lines – the “Rose Stem Cell” line and the “Water Drench” line – are at the center of their suit, as both lines have allegedly been marketed and sold in conjunction with “false and deceptive representations [about their] active ingredients” that have enabled Roth to “profit enormously … while their customers are left with overpriced, ineffective skin care products.”

For instance the plaintiffs assert that in connection with its “Water Drench” line of products Roth “represents that the active ingredient, hyaluronic acid, will draw moisture from the atmosphere into the user’s skin, and will hold 1,000 times its weight in water for up to 72 hours.” This is impossible, they claim, as “hyaluronic acid is incapable of absorbing anywhere near 1,000 times its weight in water, even when it is in its anhydrous (i.e., waterless; completely dry) form.” 

More than that, Miller and Paulson assert that Roth’s claim that “the acid pulls water from the air or clouds is also false and deceptive because the acid would tend to draw water out of the skin, thereby achieving the opposite effect as the one the company advertises.” 

As for its line of “Rose Stem Cell” products, which Roth claims are “are capable of repairing, regenerating, and rejuvenating human skin” and “stimulating cellular turnover” as a result of the inclusion of rose stem cells, the plaintiffs argue that “there is absolutely no evidence that rosestem cells can provide such benefits.” They allege that Roth is clearly “attempting to capitalize on the recent media attention that has been given to medical research of human stem cells, with the goal of confusing consumers and causing them to erroneously believe that they will receive significant health benefits by using the Rose Stem Cell Products.” 

In short:Miller and Paulson argue that “even in an industry known for hype,” Roth’s “outrageous marketing practices stand out among those of their competitors,” as Roth’s “claims about their [products] are not just hype; rather, they are demonstrably false.” 

Nonetheless, “because of the interest in these kinds of products [among consumers], Roth is able to charge exorbitant amounts for their pseudo-science,” and “given that its profits will likely grow from selling over-priced products to a growing market for skin care products, Roth has an incentive to continue to make false representations,” according to the plaintiffs. 

With the foregoing in mind, Miller and Paulson claim that Roth has enjoyed an “unlawful advantage over [its] competitors,” all while causing “injury to the general public.” As such, they claim that Roth has violated California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, which prohibits “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices undertaken” in furtherance of the sale of goods; and California’s False Advertising, Business and Professions Code, and engaged in acts of Fraud, Deceit, and/or Misrepresentation; Negligent Misrepresentation; and Unfair, Unlawful and Deceptive Trade Practices. 

They are seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief, as well as certification of their proposed class action in order to enable other individuals who have purchased the allegedly misrepresented products to join in their suit and any ultimate settlement sum. 

*The case is Kari Miller, et al., v. Peter Thomas Roth, LLC, et al., 3:19-cv-00698 (N.D.Cal.)