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Consumer lawsuit filed against St. Ives claiming Apricot Scrub causes skin damage

A popular face scrub is in some legal trouble.

<p>St. Ives Apricot Scrub.</p>

A popular face scrub is being accused of false advertising.

Though well-known for decades, more people started using St. Ives Apricot Scrub now that products which use exfoliating plastic microbeads have been banned in the U.S.

Two consumers are suing the makers of St. Ives Apricot Scrub over claims the ingredients cause skin damage, according to the lawsuit documents via Consumerist.

The lawsuit is challenging defendant Unilever United States Inc. in a California court for using walnut shells in the inexpensive beauty product.

According to the claim, even if finely crushed, walnut shells cause damage to the skin, making it unsuitable for use in a facial scrub.

St. Ives' website boasts the walnut shell powder leaves 'skin soft and glowing'. While most users do feel softer skin, they can't see the alleged microscopic damage.

The suit also challenges St. Ives Apricot Scrub's claim that the product is "non-comedogenic", meaning it doesn't clog pores. Instead, it alleges there are ingredients in the product that are highly comedogenic.

The lawsuit says Unilever is aware of the product's issues since it advertises the face scrub as being "dermatologist tested" but doesn't disclose to consumers the product causes skin damage and isn't actually recommended by dermatologists.

The suit uses quotes from numerous skin care professionals to support their claim, including a quote an esthetician's blog post which says, the walnut shells cause tiny tears in the skin allowing bacteria to enter the face. The post also says the rough scrubbing causes inflammation of the skin which makes the pores swell and close causing acne.

An Unilever spokesperson released the following statement to ABC10, regarding the class action:

"As a general practice we do not comment on pending litigation. We can say that for over 30 years, consumers have loved and trusted the St. Ives brand to refresh and revitalize their skin. We are proud to be America’s top facial scrub brand and stand by our dermatologist tested formula.”

Sacramento dermatologist, Emil Tanghetti, said while he doesn't know the exact data for St. Ives Apricot Scrub, he believes the problem is more on how the product is marketed and then used by consumers.

"Unilever is a big company," Tanghetti said. "They know how to market."

Tanghetti said there are different variables on how to use a product, and people may misuse products.

When it comes to using facial scrubbers or exfoliates, the East Sacramento-based dermatologist said there are dermatologists 'on all spectrums', but he believes the products do more damage than good.

"There's a lot of controversy on this," Tanghetti said.

Tanghetti said he prefers FDA approved 'drugs and devices' based on clinical studies, such as retinoid treatments or over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide to clear blackheads and rejuvenate skin.

"It sounds sexy to exfoliate," Tanghetti said. "But people are doing more damage."

Tanghetti explained there are chemicals that treat a variety of issues, ranging from rosacea and photo damage, to blackheads, which don't involve scrubbing.

When it comes to consumers using St. Ives Apricot Scrub, Tanghetti is hesistant,

"I think they should be cautious," he said. "They should be careful."

Both of the consumers filing the claim said they've used the face scrub over the past three years, one in California, the other in New York.

They both propose to represent a nationwide Class for all people in the U.S. who have used St. Ives Apricot Scrub. They're also proposing two subclasses, from their home states of California and New York.

The lawsuit is asking the court to stop St. Ives Apricot Scrub from false advertising and are seeking awards in damages, restitution, court costs and attorneys’ fees.