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Tarte “Natural” Products and Synthetic Ingredients Class Action

Tarte Frxxxtion Stick

How do consumers know whether ingredients are natural or not? For the most part, they take the word of the maker. If the word “natural” appears on the labeling or in the advertising, they assume that the product is natural. But the complaint for this class action alleges that Tarte, Inc. calls its personal care products “natural” when they contain a number of synthetic or chemical ingredients. 

The class for this action is all consumers who bought the Tarte products anywhere in the US during the class period. There is a also a New York subclass for those who bought the products in New York. 

According to the complaint, the US Code defines a “synthetic” as “a substance that is formulated or manufactured by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring plants, animals, or mineral sources…”

Also, the US Department of Agriculture has put out a Draft Guidance Decision Tree for Classification of Materials as Synthetic or Nonsynthetic (Natural). The complaint summarizes this in this way: “[A] substance is natural … if: (a) it is manufactured, produced, or extracted from a natural source…; (b) it has not under gone a chemical change … so that it is chemically or structurally different than how it naturally occurs in the source material; or (c) the chemical change was created by a naturally occurring biological process such as composting, fermentation, or enzymatic digestion or by heating or burning biological matter.”

The complaint shows images from a display stand that calls the products “high performance naturals” and from Tarte’s website, which says things like, “We believe in high performance AND natural” and “Why choose between beauty that works & beauty that’s healthy?”

The complaint calls these statements false, misleading, and deceptive. It examines the ingredients contained in a number products. For example, Tarte Skincare Frxxxtion Stick contains butylene glycol, glycerin, cocamidopropyl betaine, kaolin, phenoxyethnaol, and sodium benzoate:

  • Butylene glycol: synthetic substance made by aldol condensation of acetaldehyde followed by catalytic hydrogenation.
  • Glycerin: texturizer created by complex processing; recognized by federal regulations as synthetic.
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine: synthetic surfactant.
  • Kaolin: hydrated aluminum silicate.
  • Phenoxyethnaol: “toxic by definition under federal law … toxic to the kidneys, the nervous system, and the liver … very hazardous in case of skin contact (defatting the skin and adversely affecting the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system…”
  • Sodium benzoate: synthetic preservative.

The complaint claims violations of the New York General Business Law (which forbids deceptive acts or practices and false advertising), other state consumer protection laws, breaches of warranties, and unjust enrichment.

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