Maybelline vs. Cover Girl : Lawsuit Halts Mascara Ads

Times Staff Writer

Model Christie Brinkley touts a new eyelash mascara from Cover Girl as “the waterproof mascara that’s washable.” But Tuesday, rival Maybelline managed to smudge that claim.

Contending that Cover Girl’s multimillion-dollar mascara campaign is “false, misleading and deceptive,” Maybelline said it persuaded a U.S. judge to order a halt to the campaign.

In an unusual move, District Judge Elsa Jane Roy not only ordered Cover Girl to stop advertising Clean Lash but also instructed the company to discontinue shipments of the new mascara “under the present deceptive packaging.”

“We’re disappointed with the decision, and we don’t believe it is correct,” said Robert Lindsay, vice president and corporate secretary at Noxell. “We tested (Clean Lash) for a year before we assured ourselves that it is waterproof yet removable with soap and water. We believe a full trial on the merits will establish Clean Lash is waterproof.”


Maybelline, the nation’s largest mascara maker, maintains that Clean Lash is not waterproof and went to court in Little Rock, Ark., to prove it. The judge agreed to issue a preliminary injunction against Noxell, parent of Cover Girl, and its New York advertising agency SSC&B; Lintas Worldwide.

With Clean Lash, Noxell is seeking a bigger share of the $250-million mascara market. Maybelline, a unit of Schering-Plough, is said to dominate with about a 33% share, according to industry estimates. Cover Girl is believed to be second with a 22% share. The two brands are major competitors in the mass-distribution segment of the cosmetic business.

Until recently, the cosmetic for coloring eyelashes was available in two forms--washable and waterproof. The oil-based waterproof versions, which both Maybelline (Ultra Lash and Fresh Lash) and Cover Girl (Marathon) produce, must be removed with special mascara remover or cold cream.

Industry observers say a mascara that is waterproof and yet easily removable with ordinary soap and water could garner a significant share of the mascara market. Mascara is the biggest part of Maybelline’s business.

Cover Girl’s Clean Lash was introduced five months ago with the usual splashy and heavy advertising that Noxell puts behind its products, which include Noxzema Skin Cream and Rain Tree moisturizers. Although Noxell won’t say how much it has spent on Clean Lash advertising, Maybelline described it as a multimillion-dollar campaign.

It was a campaign that caught Maybelline’s eye, rivals suggested. Lindsay at Noxell says Clean Lash is a “new innovation but there are other products like this on the marketplace. They just decided to go after us. We’re not claiming that we’re the only ones out there.” He said he believed that Max Factor and L’Oreal produced a waterproof mascara that is removable with soap and water.

To back up its claim that Clean Lash is not waterproof, Maybelline submitted results of a test conducted by Hilltop Research Inc., an independent research company in Cincinnati that it hired. A Maybelline spokesman says that when women wearing Clean Lash put their faces in a shower for 10 seconds and blotted their wet eyelashes with tissue five minutes later, the mascara came off.

Maybelline’s spokesman said the company may challenge other advertising claims as well.