I was delighted to learn that nothing is stopping me from going private-label myself: I could just bring a face wash to a producer, coyly ask it to replicate the stuff, and stick a label on the resulting product bearing the text “Joe’s Face Wash” and a picture of my face. In fact, it would be even easier than that. Karim said that some labs do the work of approximating various products and then actively try to sell those nameless liquids, gels, and creams to existing brands. “Joe’s Face Wash could turn around in a couple weeks,” Karim told me. “They just have it ready to go, and they’re going to print labels and put it on there.” (One expert I talked with even said it’s possible that Vi-Jon, which makes Mountain Falls, might be making face wash for other retailers, such as CVS, too.)

Young told me that brands can’t do much to halt this private-label process. So much of their sales come from retailers like CVS that they can’t just take their business elsewhere. “If I’m Galderma … do I love sitting on the shelf next to the retailer’s private-label version?” Young said. “No, but if I walk around the store, they’re doing it with every other major brand … It’s a fact of life. It’s just that these retailers are so big, and so powerful, that if I want to stay in there, welcome aboard.”