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Aveeno “Stress Relief” Lavender Products False Advertising Class Action

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Aveeno Stress Relief Moisturizing Lotion

A couple of stress-relief personal products might be providing a little stress for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. The complaint for this class action alleges that two of its products do not in fact relieve stress or calm and relax users.

The class for this action is all consumers who bought the products in question anywhere in the US during the class period. The complaint also proposes a New York subclass.

Under its Aveeno brand, Johnson & Johnson offers Aveeno Stress Relief Moisturizing Lotion and Aveeno Stress Relief Body Wash. The company claims that each of the products provides “Stress Relief” and “Calms and Relaxes.” The labels speak of “clinical studies” and of the “relaxing scents of lavender and essential chamomile and ylang ylang oils, which have calming benefits when used in a shower or bath” and thus more specifically repeat the product claims.

But is this true? The complaint says no.

Aromatherapy has grown into a big business, but without much scientific study of its effects, the complaint alleges. 

The complaint says, “In an experimental setting, stress is measured by self-reporting, as well as by objective measures including the level of cortisol (a hormone associated with stress) in saliva, blood pressure, and heart rate.” It claims, “A pair of systematic reviews were published in 2012 that concluded there were few, if any, reliable studies demonstrating any effect of aromatherapy, and the use of lavender in particular, on stress, mood, or physiological wellbeing.” 

The complaint also points to a number of studies that found little or no effect of lavender on participants. “While there are studies which suggest that lavender may have some effect on mood and stress levels,” the complaint says, “each of those studies suffer[s] from significant methodological problems that render their results unreliable…”

The complaint finds other problems with the company’s claims. Studies tend to use pure oils, but the products in question “are an amalgam of ingredients, including chemical ‘fragrance’ apparently designed to approximate the scents of lavender, chamomile, and ylang ylang.” They also contain other ingredients, including synthetics, which have certainly not been used in aromatherapy studies.

Also, many of the studies have been of lavender scent delivered by inhalation, while the products offer an application to the skin. And many studies involve patients with particular conditions, so that their effects say nothing about effects on general populations.

The complaint alleges false advertising under New York’s General Business Law, the violation of other states’ consumer protection statutes, and breaches of warranties, among other things.

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