If you're a "vote with your wallet" type of person, you have a new excuse for turning down your next multilevel-marketing "party" invitation, because that lipstick people are selling on Facebook reportedly has some tenuous ties to the Trump administration. According to Refinery 29, LipSense, the long-wear lip gloss with a cult-like following and a potentially friendship-destroying business plan, is distributed by a company called SeneGence International. And it turns out that the company's Chief Strategy Officer, Ben Kante, donated $250,000 to President Donald Trump's inaugural committee back in January.
Of course, Kante is a private citizen, and his political leanings don't necessarily reflect the views of the company, but it's worth noting that SeneGence is a privately held company, and Kante's wife, Joni Rogers-Kante, is the founder and CEO, so he's not just some anonymous employee. The bottom line is that if you purchased LipSense or any other SeneGence cosmetics prior to the inauguration, you may have inadvertently contributed to it. If that doesn't sit well with you, it's time to tell your cousin Kathy to stop adding you to her Facebook marketing "events." Be honest, you were dying to do it anyway. SeneGence has not returned Romper's request for comment.
Another notable detail, according to Refinery 29, is that this was Kante's first political donation; he didn't donate to Trump's campaign, but handed over $250,000 after he was elected. In March, Trump nominated Dr. Scott Gottlieb as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Gottlieb has previously criticized the FDA for what he perceives as over-regulation, according to Scientific American, and some Democrats, including Washington Sen. Patty Murray, have questioned whether he's "truly committed to putting our families’ health first" in the face of political pressure, according to the New York Times.
The FDA not only regulates food and drugs, but also has oversight into cosmetic manufacturing and labeling, including safety and whether or not cosmetics are improperly labeled or deceptively packaged. SeneGense claims that LipSense "restores the moisture content of your lips" even as its primary ingredient, denatured alcohol, causes a "tingling sensation" when applied, and that it also "provides a natural shield from the sun." It also touts another ingredient, St. John’s Wort extract, as "a natural herb used to elavate [sic] mood and treat depressions." Other SeneGence products come with dubious claims, like the SeneDerm Solutions Dark Circle Under Eye Treatment, which purportedly "helps reduce Dark Circles by 122%!"
Apart from the Kante/Trump situation, there's still the sticky matter of SeneGence's reported business model. SeneGence is a multilevel marketing company, which means that distributors (like those friends of yours on Facebook) must pay a startup fee and purchase the product upfront. They're also encouraged to attend sales training seminars (also for a fee) and recruit new distributors to work under them in exchange for a portion of their commissions, all according to SeneGence's website. One thing's for sure — it's a pretty complicated way to buy makeup, especially when there's a CVS or Sephora right around the corner.
Kante did not return Romper's request for comment, so it's unclear what his motivation for donating to Trump's inauguration might have been, but some consumers may be uncomfortable with a CSO that donates money to a politician who can directly impact his company. Corporate strategy isn't a detail that your average lipstick user probably considers before buying, but it's something to think about in this particular case, particularly if they're attempting to participate in the "Grab Your Wallet" initiative, aimed at boycotting products and companies with ties to the Trump administration. LipSense and SeneGence are not currently listed on the organization's official site.