If you are active on Instagram, a photo-centric social media platform, it is highly likely you’ve seen your favorite celebs and influencers promote FitTea: an online-based brand known for its tea detoxes, i.e., “teatoxes,” that the brand claims promote weight loss. Kylie Jenner and big sis Kourtney Kardashian (with 90.5 million and 55.2 million Instagram followers, respectively) are two of the many well-known FitTea promoters.

According to The Fashion Law, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) began investigating FitTea last year, “after receiving complaints from consumers regarding [the company’s] posting of disclosure-less endorsements and unsubstantiated health claims.”

“Upon initiating an investigation of FitTea, NAD claims that the company modified its website to include the ‘#ad’ disclosure on the paid-for Instagram endorsements, and vowed to require paid endorsers to disclose their connection to the company and to monitor posts to ensure compliance,” The Fashion Law continues.

“Moreover, the NAD held that FitTea should separate its endorsements and testimonials from its authentic product reviews on its website, as well as to prominently distinguish which reviews on its website are authentic user reviews and which are not.’”

Source: [Instagram user @kyliejenner]

But, proper advertising practices and transparent disclosures are only half the battle. FitTea is also under fire for false weight-loss and other health-related claims.

“The NAD criticized the content of some FitTea’s paid for endorsements, namely ones that assert that consuming FitTea helps to promote with weight loss,” according to The Fashion Law.

Per The Fashion Law, the NAD decision states, “While the diet and exercise program that FitTea promotes to customers who purchase FitTea might result in weight loss or other weight-related health improvements, there was no evidence in the record that drinking FitTea by itself will boost metabolism, boost immunity, burn fat or otherwise result in weight loss.”

Upon its findings, the NAD stated that FitTea should abstain from publishing or re-publishing the false weight-loss testaments on its website.

Despite the issues at hand, “none of the influencers at issue, such as the Kardashian/Jenners, actresses Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, Bella Thorne, Lindsay Lohan and Sarah Hyland, among others, [as well as] the huge array of Instagram famous models, were named in the action,” according to The Fashion Law.

“As such, the burden falls exclusively on the advertising company [i.e., FitTea] to ensure that the individuals it is paying disclose properly.”

Kourtney Kardashian promotes FitTea [source: The Fashion Law]

Detox teas are not the only web-based brand falsely promoting such claims. In fact, Galore points out that diet pills like QuickTrim, Instagram-famous waist trainers and body wraps (such as those from It Works!) are all guilty of deceptive advertising.

“Nowadays there are endless diet tips and weight loss supplements out there, all promising to help us lose weight and live happier, healthier lives. It’s tough to figure out what’s the real deal and what isn’t. But there’s one marketing ploy that’s always a red flag, and it looks like this: ‘When combined with a healthy diet and exercise,’” Galore writer Kayla Jackson points out.

“If a product will only help you lose weight ‘when combined with a healthy diet and exercise,’ then guess what? That product isn’t doing jack shit. It’s the healthy diet and exercise that are making you lose weight, not [whichever] garbage product you’re combining it with.

Jackson spoke with exercise physiologist and nutritionist Dr. Bill Sukala to confirm the issue.

“Just because something is sold over the counter does not automatically mean that it’s been vetted by health authorities and has been deemed safe or effective,” Sukala tells Jackson.

“Losing weight the natural way through exercise and eating healthy is and always has been the smartest and cheapest way to ensure success.”

Jackson specifically explains the problem with body wraps from pyramid schemes like It Works! While they do in fact promote weight loss on their own (i.e., sans diet and exercise), all of it comes from water weight.

“Once you rehydrate the weight that is lost comes right back,” Jackson says.

“This product is a quick fix if you want to lose weight immediately, but the results do not last long at all.”

However, both Jackson and Sukala find detox teas the most problematic of all the Insta-famous dieting fads.

“Once a person has lost weight from a ‘detox’, [he or she] will inevitably gain it back in short time,” Sukala says.

“This is because most of the weight loss was in the form of feces and fluid. If the person was dieting and drastically cutting calories, then there might have been some fat loss, but probably also a loss of valuable metabolism-boosting muscle.”

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When shopping for new beauty products, I am always on the lookout for natural ingredients; I tend to avoid putting chemicals into and on my body or face whenever possible for obvious reasons. So, after Lexi Ioannou, the blogger behind Boho Chicken, published a list of her natural must-have products, I felt inspired to do the same.

I’ve been using the following all-natural products for months, and in some cases, years, so I am living proof their results are like magic. Plus, nearly all of them are available at drugstores and/or supermarkets–you don’t even have to make a trip to Ulta or Sephora for glowing, smooth skin and thicker, silkier hair.

Coconut oil: Coconut oil is super popular, and for good reasons. Not only does it smell ah-mazing, it is the ultimate moisturizing agent for hair and body. Once a week, I massage coconut oil throughout my scalp and mane–the best part is, this oil is all-natural, so it can be safely kept on for hours on end. Typically, I leave coconut oil in my hair anywhere between 1-12 hours at a time.

After shampooing and conditioning my hair as normal, I towel off and use some coconut oil as moisturizer on my legs, abdomen and arms. The result is soft, healthy hair and baby-like skin. It has a natural SPF of 4, making it a great alternative to sticky, store-bought tanning oils, and it is perfect for protecting your hair from the sun’s rays.

Spectrum essentials unrefined coconut oil, prices vary, select drugstores & grocers

Apple cider vinegar: ACV, like coconut oil, has so many uses; but unlike coconut oil, it has a super strong, not-so-pleasant smell. Don’t let that scare you, though; it can instantly be rinsed away with your go-to soap or shampoo. I love using apple cider vinegar as a toner before I go to sleep at night (the smell is gone by morning!), or mixed in my favorite facial mask (like I said, the smell is gone as soon as the mask is washed off).

You can also use ACV to rid your hair of buildup. So that it does not irritate your scalp (ACV has a slight sting to it), mix some apple cider vinegar with a little warm water in a spray bottle, spray your hair thoroughly, and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then, wash your hair as normal. Ta-da!

Indian Healing Clay: When mixed with apple cider vinegar, this all-natural powder becomes a strong and super effective facial mask. As the label states, I literally feel my face pulsate every time I use this combo. Natural clay goes deep into the pores to draw out dirt, oil and toxins, while ACV leaves your skin even and toned.

In addition to reducing breakouts and blackheads, this mask’s tightening effect reduces the appearance of pores. The best part is, 1 pound of this facial, composed of 100 percent calcium bentonite clay, goes for about $11 on Amazon.

Bragg apple cider vinegar & Aztec Secret Indian Healing clay, $21.99, Amazon [source: Pinterest]

Cotton: I had to include 100 percent cotton on this list because I love using it to dry my hair. If you’ve got an old cotton t-shirt lying around, swap your post-shower hair towel for it, and your hair will dry noticeably less frizzy.

Tea tree oil: If you have oily or acne-prone skin, tea tree oil will quickly become your savior. I love using Lush’s Tea Tree Water toner spray to refresh my face throughout the day without disturbing my makeup. Plus, it instantly soothes irritated post-shaved or post-waxed skin.

Or, you could use 100-percent pure tea tree oil as a stronger supplement to your favorite facial cleanser during your nighttime skincare routine.

Tea tree water toner, $10.95-22.95, Lush [source: lushsg.com]

Witch hazel: YouTube star Lauren Elizabeth introduced me to witch hazel in a skincare video a couple months ago, and I really wish I had heard of this miracle product sooner. Not only does it deep clean pores, it minimizes their appearance big time!

While you can buy witch hazel extract at the drugstore, I first decided to try Ulta’s Pollution Defense Pomegranate Instant Defense peel-off mask, which contains witch hazel, on my most recent trip to the beauty retailer. The results could not be beat! For $3, my pores became virtually invisible (seriously, it was like I constantly had a blur filter on my face), and thanks to the antioxidant-rich pomegranate, the fine lines on my forehead disappeared, too. I would recommend this mask for all skin types.

Castor oil: This is the newest addition to my natural beauty arsenal! A couple months ago I discovered castor oil’s hair-thickening properties while browsing Pinterest and decided to give it a go. However, no one warned me how thick this oil itself is, so my first time using it was a complete mess.

Once I got the hang of it, however, this product was exactly what my beauty routine was missing. A little is great on the scalp and ends to promote hair growth. With a cotton swab, you can apply small amounts of castor oil to your brows and lashes before bed to thicken those up, as well.

Instant Defense peel-off mask, $3, Ulta

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Knockoffs are all too common in the world of fashion–especially now that social media allows retailers to have an inside look at their competitors’ inner workings.

The latest high-profile lawsuit, involving New York-based swimwear brand Kiini and famed lingerie powerhouse Victoria’s Secret, was settled late last month, despite the fact it was filed in October 2015.

“According to Kiini’s complaint, Victoria’s Secret produced a bathing suit that looked ‘virtually indistinguishable’ to its original bikini design. Though the terms of the settlement are confidential, the [law]suit is worth reflecting on,” The Fashion Law writes.

“Kiini, which has gained a ‘cult-like following and is known for the original, distinct, copyright-protected swimwear designs,’ initiated the action against the lingerie giant for copyright infringement, trade dress infringement, and unfair competition.”

There are tons of Kiini dupes on the online market from small web-based boutiques nowadays, but when a retail giant like Victoria’s Secret blatantly copies a high-end swimwear brand, there are several complex lessons to be learned.

Kiini original bikini [source: Lyst]

Victoria’s Secret dupe [source: Bikini Mecca]

“As Kiini set forth in its complaint, Victoria’s Secret allegedly marketed and sold an infringing copy of Kiini’s well-known bikini design ‘in the pursuit of its own self promotion and profit, and to Kiini’s unfair harm and detriment,'” The Fashion Law continues.

“The Kiini swimsuit in question–which is stocked by high end retailers, such as Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and Net-A-Porter, and retails for $165 for a top and $120 for a bottom–has ‘become a much sought after bikini.'”

The pricey bikinis, worn in a number of editorials, as well as by celebrities like Heidi Klum and Cara Delevingne, are known for their amazing attention-to-detail and stunning bohemian design are obviously of the highest quality. Not to mention, they are ultimately a product of Ipek Irgit’s, the brand’s founder and creative director, intellectual property.

“Irgit obtained federal copyright protection for the bikini design in December 2014, making Kiini the ‘sole and exclusive owner to all right, title and interest in and to the copyright to the design,'” according to The Fashion Law.

“The brand alleges that in addition to enjoying federal copyright protection, it has developed trade dress rights, as ‘the purchasing public has come to associate the distinct Kiini trade dress with Kiini, and Kiini trade dress has achieved secondary meaning.'”

The trade dress at hand?

“[It] consists of: ‘1) a triangle profile bikini; 2) a distinctive, rectangular crochet pattern that borders the edges of the bikini; 3) the rectangular geometric pattern is doubled at the bottom edge of the bikini top, and the top edge of the bikini bottom; 4) bright color blocking resulting from a woven interlaced pattern of contrasting colored and textured material, specifically elastic and crochet yarn; and, 5) the bikini top’s upright triangle profile and the bikini bottom’s upside down triangle profile,'” according to The Fashion Law.

“For the uninitiated, trade dress extends to the total image of a product and can be based on shape, size, color, texture and graphics. In order to be eligible for trade dress protection, a design must serve as a non-functional identifier of source.”

Furthermore, “per Kiini, the triangle designs featured on the bathing suit at issue are in no way functional and that ‘the only reason to copy the Kiini trade dress is to attempt to trade off its goodwill and draw sales away from Kiini. This is exactly what [Victoria’s Secret] has unfairly and unlawfully done here.'”

Unsurprisingly, this is not Victoria’s Secret’s first rodeo. In 2012 the California-born, Ohio-based lingerie retailer was sued by Zephyrs, a hosiery supplier, for selling shoddy versions of their designs.

“Zephyrs filed a complaint in federal court in Ohio charging the lingerie behemoth with using images of its products on packaging and in-store product displays, while selling a cheaper version of the product inside,” according to The Huffington Post.

“In a nutshell, Victoria’s Secret used to sell Zephyrs’ Italian-made hosiery, but cut ties with them, switched to a Canadian supplier and allegedly didn’t change images or text on the packaging, except for adding a ‘Made In Canada.’ In addition to the $15 million for breach of contract, Zephyrs is also seeking “corrective advertising” and a recall of the accused products.”

The parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount and “mutually agreed to dismiss the claims and counterclaims with prejudice,” according to The Fashion Law.

More recently, in 2015, Victoria’s Secret began copy-catting Triangl, another upscale swimwear brand. The distinct sporty swimsuits feature thick black lines that separate blocks of bold colors. Via social media platforms like Twitter, The Fashion Law then went on to explain that Australia-based Triangl is the one of world’s most-copied swimwear brands.

Flipping through Victoria’s Secret’s catalogs or strolling through a brick-and-mortar store, nearly anyone in the fashion or retail industries will notice the company frequently knocks-off designs from high-end brands like Kiini, Triangl and Gooseberry Intimates, a world-class French lingerie label.

“Kiini goes on to bolster its claim by stating that it is not the only one who noticed the similarities between its designs and the Victoria’s Secret copies. According to Kiini’s complaint, ‘several discerning customers have generated electronic content posted on popular social media, referring to the Victoria’s Secret copy-infringing design, and stating: ‘totally Kinii [sic] knock off,’ ‘Kiini copiers,’ and ‘Victoria’s Secret knock off Kiini,'” writes The Fashion Law.

“The complaint continues on to note that the similarities between its design and the Victoria’s Secret copy gave rise to actual confusion amongst consumers and offered evidence that consumers ‘queried on photos’ of the Victoria’s Secret copy, asking: ‘Is this a Kiini swimsuit or a Victoria’s Secret?’ Victoria’s Secret allegedly ignored the customer comments ‘chiding it for stealing the Kiini design, and they continue to intentionally market and sell their imitations.'”

Despite the number of copyright- and patent- based lawsuits Victoria’s Secret has faced, it seems the company is not slowing down its infringing design procedures. However, The Fashion Law makes an interesting point regarding the company’s practices:

“Interestingly, in the time since [Kiini] filed suit, Victoria’s Secret has folded its swimwear division entirely to focus exclusively on lingerie and loungewear.”

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March was such an exciting month for me because I officially became part of the Glossier team! I am now a Rep who uses my position as a blogger and social media influencer to promote Glossier’s entire range of skincare and makeup products.

As many of you know, I’ve been a Glossier fan for a year now–and an Into The Gloss reader for even longer. The brand has really changed the way I look at beauty products, and I am so excited to share my experiences with Haute Mess readers.

You can checkout my must-have Glossier goodies and shop the entire range through my Rep page. Plus, you will receive 20 percent off your purchase and earn free shipping each time you spend $30!

Now, let’s get into this month’s favorites:

Alo Yoga leggings: Even during the warmer months, I am much more comfortable working out in full-length leggings–I find that they stay in place much better than shorts do. Because I wear them nearly every day, I’m always in the market for a comfortable new pair. I’ve heard so many great things about Alo Yoga from fellow bloggers, so when I spotted this super cool, new-with-tags pair on Poshmark for nearly half-off retail value, I had to pick them up!

The white and gray color scheme mutes the otherwise flashy camouflage pattern, ensuring these pants totally match all the sports bras in my closet. They are comfy to run and lift in, aaaand their high-waist is really flattering. Thrifted via Poshmark

Airbrush Legging in White Camo, $88, aloyoga.com

Balm Dotcom by Glossier: This universal skin salve instantly become my holy grail beauty product the second I started using it in late February–not exaggerating! I wish I ordered this product sooner.

Not only does it treat dry patches without causing my face any breakouts or irritation, it is leaps and bounds above any other lip balm; trust me, I’ve tried them all. Again, not exaggerating. You can even use it to moisturize cuticles. If you only try one Glossier product, make sure it’s Balm Dotcom. It is my stranded-on-a-deserted-island must-have. $12, Glossier

(Psst! Save 20 percent on your first Glossier order + enjoy free shipping when you spend $30 by shopping through my link!)

Facial Spray with Aloe, Cucumber & Green Tea by Mario Badescu: As soon as the weather starts to warm up, my hair and skin become a little oily throughout the day, so facial sprays are a must for me this time of year. Last year I relied on Lush’s tea tree water toner, but this year I decided to switch it up.

Not only is Mario Badescu’s aloe, cucumber and green tea spray less expensive than Lush’s facial spray, it works just as well–if not better! This product is super refreshing; I use it a couple times a day to maintain a dirt- and oil-free face, while keeping my makeup in its place. And, it doubles as a soothing agent for irritated post-shaved or post-waxed skin. $7, Ulta

[source: Allure]

White Charcoal Mattifying makeup setting spray by Boscia: I’ve never owned a setting spray before! But, like I said, my skin tends to gets a little oily, so I was in the market for a little something extra to help my makeup stay put during the day–especially as weather starts to warm up.

Lauren Elizabeth, one of my fav YouTubers, mentioned Boscia’s White Charcoal Mattifying setting spray in her recent video, and I decided to check it out for myself. When I noticed 1 ounce of Boscia’s setting spray for an affordable price at Sephora, I decided to pick it up.

As many of you know, I favor Glossier’s dewy products; although they look amazing, they tend to slide around, especially in warm, humid climates, so I definitely need something to keep them down. This setting spray gets the job done with only two or three spritzes!

The magic of charcoal controls excess oil and detoxes the pores, while vitamin- and antioxidant-rich black tea visibly minimizes pores and protects skin from harmful free radicals. $12, Sephora

[source: Olivia Frescura]

Thicken & Restore Bamboo Fibers strengthening milk by Maui Moisture: I deal with hair breakage and loss as a result of coloring and styling my mane over the years, and I have yet to discover a strand-saving product. Coconut oil work wonders, but I was desperately in need of something I could use more regularly.

Maui Moisture’s thicken & restore range was highly recommended to me by a friend who also has weak hair, so I decided to try the strengthening milk this month as a replacement for my usual Garnier leave-in conditioner. After only a handful of uses, I am noticing less hair loss every time I wash or brush my mane. Plus, every day that I use this leave-in I am guaranteed to have killer, cooperative hair.

Because this range contains castor oil, which is known for its restorative properties, it is extremely thick, so I definitely recommend using only a little of this product at a time–or else you will end up with a weighed-down mane that looks greasy and is difficult to style. $8.99, Ulta

Amy Serrano’s no-heat hair straightening tutorial: My natural beach-y waves are great during the summer months, but they’re not really appropriate most months out of the year. Typically, I attempt to give myself an at-home blowout with a hair dryer and straightening wand, but that is super time-consuming and, as everyone knows, not good for the hair.

While browsing makeup videos on YouTube earlier this month, I stumbled upon a no-heat hair straightening tutorial by fellow Glossier rep Amy Serrano.

This technique, which Serrano refers to as el tubi tubi, is slightly tricky to get the hang of at first. But, once you get it, it definitely becomes second nature. And honestly, the results cannot be beat: el tubi tubi gives you glossy, blowout-style hair overnight–without the heat and with half the effort.

[source: Amazon]

Hermit in Paris by Italo Calvino: It has been raining a ton here in West Virginia, so I’ve been devouring books and magazines like no other. This month I picked up Hermit in Paris by Italo Calvino, which is a series of autobiographical writings by Cuban-born Calvino. His stories definitely provide an instant pick-me-up for those dreary days when all you want to do is daydream about living like a Parisienne. Prices vary, Amazon

Collagen: There is no doubt that collagen has been a major trend over the past few months–and what’s not to love? It is packed with anti-aging benefits, and it promotes joint tissue regrowth while preventing bone loss. We all need collagen in our diets, so instead of investing in pricey supplements, I decided to eat more of the foods that are naturally full of it.

The usual suspects, such as fish, dark green veggies and antioxidant-rich berries, have already been some of my lifelong favs. But, this month I also learned that red and orange veggies, citrus fruits and garlic (the best seasoning for all types of dishes in my opinion) are also rich in nutrients that promote collagen. I’ve been loading up on these foods all month long, working towards a brighter, flawless complexion for years to come.

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Anyone who uses social media is familiar with the concept of memes. But, no one expected to see memes created and published by an esteemed high-end retailer in lieu of a traditional ad campaign.

According to Google, a meme is “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.” Earlier this month, luxury brand Gucci began utilizing memes to advertise their newest campaign, dubbed #TFWGucci. (For those of you who are not social media savvy, “TFW” is an acronym meaning “the feel when.”)

A scroll through Gucci’s Instagram profile (@gucci) reveals a slew of popular memes repurposed and aimed at its luxury consumers. Many followers were slightly shocked to see Gucci’s memes on their Instagram feeds.

After all, “it’s kind of a well-known fact that the fashion world, particularly the luxury goods industry, has been slow to adopt technology. And then it moved at a snail’s pace to get on social media,” according to Dash Hudson, a company that focuses on Instagram return on investment (ROI) for many big-name brands.

“Luxury labels have been getting by on these platforms thanks to name recognition, but as Instagram evolves and various content trends come and go, it is indeed becoming increasingly imperative for them to start shifting their thinking toward devising social-first strategies.”

By implementing this unique strategy, Gucci instantly set itself apart from its competitors, who do not keep up with social media content trends, such as memes.

“A lot of luxury brands don’t really appear to have a concise social strategy in place and just go about it according to their HQ’s marketing activities,” Dash Hudson continues.

Luxury fashion brands tend steer clear of mainstream trends, on social media or otherwise, in order to maintain their aloof, exclusive personas. So, it is no surprise that it came as, well, a surprise, with the Italian fashion house took on the quirky trend full-force.

[source: Dash Hudson]

The second post of Gucci’s entire meme campaign features a watch showing through a torn suit sleeve, captioned “When you got that new watch and have to show it off.”

With an engagement rate of 1.34 percent, according to Dash Hudson, this post sits in second place among the Gucci account’s top 4 highest performing posts of all time–second only to another #TFWGucci post. The third and fourth place posts are not associated with this campaign.

Gucci’s highest performing post of all-time, by a margin of .21 percent, is a close-up shot of a female model adorned with what appears to be Gucci-inspired temporary tattoos. Her hand and face are covered in drawn-on tags: an Instagram feature used to identify who’s who in a given picture.

“The top 2 memes from the campaign actually became [Gucci’s] top 2 most engaged posts of all-time, dethroning [a snapshot of] the Obamas,” according to Dash Hudson.

[source: Dash Hudson]

Followers are obviously responding well to this unconventional ad campaign, but, like the old phrases says, no good deed goes unpunished. Or, in this case, uncriticized. Fashion enthusiasts all over the world took to social media (of course) to speak out on Gucci’s new campaign.

“I’m not upset that Gucci is making memes now. I’m upset because the memes are bad,” @robesman writes via Twitter.

“These Gucci memes are not funny [and] really not relatable,” adds @erikabowes.

“I’m sure it sounded dope when they were brainstorming, but Gucci’s meme campaign is one of the lamest things I’ve ever seen,” @Sipho_Says writes.

Still, some fans of the brand are unsure how they feel about its new ad campaign.

“Gucci made itself a meme account, and I can’t decide if I love it or hate it,” @rubykburns tweets.

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