3 Lessons from Walmart’s New Chemicals Initiative

September 12th, 2013 at 10:33 am by Stacy Malkan

By Stacy Malkan

Today is a day to celebrate our power to move the market. Walmart’s new chemicals initiative is a loud and clear signal to companies that people don’t want to buy products made with toxic chemicals.

The world’s largest retailer will now require companies to reduce or eliminate a priority list of hazardous chemicals from  cosmetics, personal care products  and cleaning products sold in its stores. They will also require full disclosure of product ingredients including some transparency on fragrance.

Walmart has not released the list of priority chemicals, but we can guess at two likely suspects from Proctor & Gamble’s recent announcement that it is dropping phthalates and triclosan. (Whoever wants to leak that list, send it on over!) On the transparency front, the companies will decide how to disclose hidden ingredients, so we’ll see how that goes. We’ll be tracking.

For now, we can say: Let’s celebrate! This is a huge victory for the millions of people who are demanding safer products. It’s a significant step forward on a path so many of you have been traveling for years and even decades. From my perspective, having worked for more than 10 years on efforts to shift the beauty industry to safer chemicals, here are my votes for the three big takeaway lessons of Walmart’s new chemicals policy.

1) Advocacy campaigns work: Today’s announcement wouldn’t have happened without the aggressive corporate campaigns and grassroots organizing efforts of nonprofit organizations such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics coalition, its founding groups Breast Cancer Fund, EWG, Clean Water Action, Women’s Voices for the Earth, Commonweal and Friends of the Earth; and allies Black Women for Wellness, Cancer Schmancer, Teens Turning Green, WEACT for Environmental JusticeComing Clean, Story of Stuff and so many others.  These groups are crucial to our democracy and our future — please support them!

This also would not have happened without every one of you, millions of you who are making conscious choices at the store, contacting companies, starting companies, selling better products, educating your communities, standing up for what’s right. This is an unstoppable movement to protect our families, move the market to saner and safer practices, and change the world.

2) Now we have to double down:  The stakes are high, and keep getting higher. New science, emerging constantly, is making very clear that our health and our children’s health is inextricably tied to the health of the environment around us. Just this week, the Breast Cancer Fund released a report of the scientific literature on bisphenol A (BPA), showing that the chemical found in most canned foods on our supermarket shelves can disrupt fetal development and set the stage for later-life diseases, including breast cancer.

We know too much now to keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them. We know that babies are born with hundreds of toxic chemicals inside their umbilical cord blood.  We know it’s time to clean this mess up. And we know how to win.

The world’s largest corporations are listening, and its time for our voices to get stronger and louder. We have the power to move the market. Let’s keep using it.

3) And take the long view: Walmart’s new policy will force the largest cosmetics corporations (some kicking and screaming, no doubt) down the path to safer chemicals and transparency — and it’s a long road ahead.  The 10 chemicals Walmart is prioritizing are just the tip of the iceberg. As we know from the many reports by Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and EWG’s Skin Deep database, dozens of toxic chemicals are commonly found in body-care products of all kinds, as well as the products all around us in our homes.  Check out the Hazardous Hundred Chemicals developed by Safer Chemicals Healthy Families for a good start to the “do not buy” and “do not use” list.

Dealing with chemicals is a huge challenge for corporations. As Walmart pointed out, there are 80,000 chemicals in consumable products today. And we’re just beginning to understand the health effects of a portion of them. As companies move away from hazardous chemicals, they need to make sure they are not jumping from the frying pan into the fire with unknown or worse chemicals. The work of Clean Production Action, particularly the GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals, are essential tools for companies that want to take a comprehensive approach to sustainable chemicals management — and there is no other way to do it.

I’m proud to have worked with all these fine nonprofit groups, and with the tens of thousands of you in the Safe Cosmetics network. I’m excited and hopeful that we have turned a corner with corporate relations (thanks EDF for all your fine work with Walmart!) and that there is a sincere effort to build bridges between industry and the advocacy community that have too often been at odds. We have more in common than we have differences and there is too much at stake — all of us want a healthy future where kids are safe from toxic chemicals and babies are born in the healthiest possible conditions.

As one of our Safe Cosmetics champions, rock star Kristi Marsh, put it after seeing the Walmart announcement on our list serve today: “This is breath taking. The potential of this statement to vendors, to businesses, to consumers is the evidence of the momentum gaining power. It’s not over, but I have full faith that green will now decidedly be the new mainstream with continued pushing.  Deep gratitude for every single passionate person on this list.”

Deep gratitude back at you, to all of you. I’m excited to see what’s next.

Stacy Malkan is a co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of the award-winning book, “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry.”




Let’s Give the Beauty Industry a Makeover!

June 5th, 2013 at 6:58 pm by Stacy Malkan

book coverTo stay connected, sign up for my list

Thanks to Women’s Voices for the Earth for organizing the Body & Soul Safe Cosmetics webinar. We had 500 people signed up! I’m happy to announce that a portion of proceeds from sales of my book will go to benefit Women’s Voices for the Earth — if you buy the book here. So now’s a great time to buy the gift of knowledge for your favorite girls, boys, women, men and everyone who puts products on their bodies, while also supporting a wonderful organization that is making the world a better place.

Here are the slides from my talk — with lots of good info about finding safe products and using our power to shift the market.

And here are 5 things you can do today to give the beauty industry a makeover:

1. Join the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

2. Find safer products on the EWG’s Skin Deep database.

3. Share our movie the Story of Cosmetics — over one million views and counting!

4. Pledge to avoid the dirty dozen cosmetic chemicals.

5. And don’t forget to buy the book here to benefit the important work of Women’s Voices for the Earth!

Here’s to health and true beauty!
Love, Stacy
ps: If you’d like to stay in touch, please sign up for my list here. I’ll keep you in the loop about my new projects including upcoming telesummit “What You Need to Know about GMOs” and free e-book about finding safe cosmetics, coming soon!


What You Need to Know About Lead in Lipstick

May 2nd, 2013 at 6:39 pm by Stacy Malkan

Lead in lipstick is in the news again, and the news just keeps getting worse. According to a new UC study, it’s not just lead we’re smearing on our faces each time we apply certain lipsticks, but aluminum, cadmium, chromium, and other toxic heavy metals too.

As I told Fox News, it’s no big surprise. I was part of the team that broke the story about lead in lipstick back in 2007. FDA followed with its own study and found even higher lead levels in hundreds of lipsticks.

For six years, the beauty companies have shrugged their shoulders and told us not to worry our pretty little heads.

I agree we shouldn’t worry. It’s time to get mad.

First of all, don’t tell us it’s just a little bit of lead. We don’t want to put lead on our lips in any amount. And besides, there is no safe level of lead exposure — even the lowest doses can harm the brains of children and developing fetuses.

littlegirllipstickAnd don’t tell us it’s not a problem because lipstick isn’t for kids. We know that little girls love it, and anyway, where do you think kids come from? From the bodies of women, millions of whom are wearing lead-tainted lipstick every day — and reapplying often.

And do not try to tell us it’s legal. That means nothing when there are no safety standards for cosmetics.

Obviously we need standards. Yet we’re still waiting for a response to this February 2012 letter  from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and this request from a group of U.S. Senators who asked FDA to set safety standards for lead in cosmetics back in 2007.

As usual, the only way to get anything done around here is to do it ourselves. Are you with me? Here are my 5 best tips for avoiding lead in lipstick.

1. Don’t wear lipstick. Maybe not what you want to hear, but there’s no way to know which lipsticks contain lead unless you test them at a lab for $200 a pop.

2. Or at least wear less lipstick.

3. And definitely don’t let kids wear lipstick.

4. Ask your favorite lipstick manufacturer to convince you they’re doing everything they can to keep the heavy metals out of their products.

5. Demand safe products. Why are there no safety standards for cosmetics? The cosmetics laws in the U.S. are from 1938! But just two weeks ago, Congressional champs introduced the Safe Cosmetics Act into the US Congress.  Please support this important legislation right now by taking action here.

Let’s give the beauty industry a makeover!

Stacy Malkan is a co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of the award-winning book “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry.” Contact her at stacy@safecosmetics.org and on twitter at @safecosmetics

Most Powerful Woman in the Beauty Industry: YOU

January 22nd, 2013 at 3:40 pm by Stacy Malkan

By Stacy Malkan

Thanks NewHope360.com for recognizing me as one of the seven most powerful women in the beauty industry.  I’m happy to share this honor with every single one of you who have been involved with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Together, WE are the most powerful women in the beauty industry, because we are giving the beauty industry a makeover — every time one of you demands safer products, starts your own company, or otherwise exercises your power to create the world you want to live in.  The companies are paying attention to what you do.


For inspiration about how to get involved, check out what Fran Drescher is up to. I love this woman! Here’s a photo of me and Fran at a recent DVD shoot for Trash Cancer, her campaign to get cancer causing chemicals out of our bodies, our products and our world. Check out Fran’s website and Check, Choose and Change your way to a healthier future.

Speaking of powerful women, I spent much of last year working as media director for Proposition 37, the California ballot initiative to label genetically engineered foods — a I-am-not-a-science-experimentmovement inspired by and fueled by women. In 20 years in the environmental field, I have never witnessed such passion and commitment from the grassroots! And much of it coming from grandmothers, moms and daughters who are demanding to know what’s in the food they’re eating. Even though we haven’t won labeling for GMOs yet, this women’s movement for health and conscious choice is growing more powerful every day. And we are unstoppable.


Do you want this guy writing the rules for cosmetics safety?

March 30th, 2012 at 10:43 am by Stacy Malkan

Peter Barton Hutt of Covington and Burling, LLP, representing the biggest beauty  corporations, testified before Congress this week that his clients’ products are perfectly safe and there’s no need to worry about silly little things like carcinogens in baby shampoo  (we’re paraphrasing here). It’s all part of the Personal Care Products Council’s multi-million-dollar lobbying effort to write its own laws that could actually make things worse. For more about industry’s plan to write the rules so FDA can give them “maximum credibility” for toxic products, see Roll Call.

Update: The cosmetics industry PR operation is a gift that keeps on giving. Check out this attack blog just posted by notorious industry front group ACSH.  Do they really think it’s smart to trot out Dr. Gilbert Ross, a former convict who spent time in jail for a Medicaid fraud scheme, to question the motives of health groups?

Dangerous Moment: Industry plots to keep products toxic

March 30th, 2012 at 10:03 am by Stacy Malkan

By Lisa Archer, director of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at Breast Cancer Fund

“I have loved every minute of my career as a stylist until Brazilian Blowout completely changed my life. Our laws are obviously broken. We are pleading for you to help protect our health and our livelihood.” – Jennifer Arce, written testimony to Energy and Commerce Committee’s March 27 hearing on cosmetics safety.

Jennifer, like far too many of her colleagues and customers, has suffered a growing list of health problems after repeated exposure to cancer-causing formaldehyde from supposedly “formaldehyde-free” Brazilian Blowout.

Tuesday, in response to public outcry over formaldehyde in hair products, mercury in face cream and lead in lipstick, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held the first Congressional hearing in 30 years on cosmetics safety. Industry representatives dominated the hearing, while people who have been hurt by toxic products — like Jennifer — were shut out of the process.

The committee plans to attach cosmetics legislation to a must-pass medical device and prescription drug user fee authorization bill. Currently, committee leadership is favoring an industry bill that would rubber stamp the status quo, leave out key provisions needed to protect our health and actually make things worse.

Cosmetics industry lobbyists are working non-stop to push this proposal that would make things worse, essentially enshrining into law decisions about ingredient safety made by the industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel — something that, according to FDA, would be “unprecedented” and possibly unconstitutional.

Industry is also pushing for federal preemption of state laws in order to override the 2005 California Safe Cosmetics Act, a law that enabled the California Attorney General to sue Brazilian Blowout and force warning labels on the products. In December, the Personal Care Products Council urged the state to de-fund and dismantle the state’s safe cosmetics program.

Essential public health protections could be set back another 70 years if industry gets away with writing its own laws that put industry profits over public health and handcuff states from taking action to protect people.

Despite the bad news, there were some truly hopeful moments at the hearing (thanks Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Ed Markey!) and we believe it’s still possible to gain meaningful, health-protective reform of our broken cosmetics laws.

This week, Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and John Dingell (D-MI) introduced the Cosmetics Safety Enhancement Act. These leaders may now be the last line of defense for the industry bill, and our best hope for strong meaningful public health protections. While the Dingell/Pallone bill includes many important provisions, it doesn’t go far enough to ensure cosmetics are safe.

Unlike the Safe Cosmetics Act introduced last year by Schakowsky (D-IL), Markey  (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the Dingell/Pallone bill does not yet provide protections against carcinogens and reproductive toxins in cosmetics, require full disclosure of cosmetic ingredients, or contain a strong safety standard. We will be pushing for inclusion of these important provisions in the weeks ahead. 

This is a truly critical moment — please join us to help protect the progress we have made together over these last 10 years. Sign up today for the Safe Cosmetics listserve for updates to receive important updates about what’s happening and how you can get involved.

Please also spread the word about the industry lobby on social media. Here are some helpful links:  Industry dominates historic hearing on cosmetics safety and the Roll Call story that reveals how industry is desperately seeking  “maximum credibility” from FDA.

With your help, this is a fight we can not and will not lose. For Jennifer and all of us, we demand meaningful cosmetics laws that remove the most dangerous chemicals from cosmetics, including chemicals linked to breast cancer, and include a strong safety standard to protect the most vulnerable people such as babies, pregnant moms and workers.

Hairsylist speaks out: It’s time to ban toxic Brazilian Blowout

March 5th, 2012 at 7:19 pm by Stacy Malkan

Guest blog by Jennifer Arce

I was glad to see Good Morning America’s hidden camera investigation about Brazilian Blowout. It’s shocking that so many salons are ignoring the many government warnings about these products. As a hairstylist seriously affected by this toxic treatment, I and so many of my colleagues know firsthand just how dangerous these products really are.

Going undercover is the perfect way to expose what’s really going on in salons across this country and revealing how clients are continually being lied to. I commend GMA for bringing this story to light, but sadly, they have only begun to scratch the surface here. Unfortunately, a three-minute story can’t capture all the escalating illnesses and severe health problems that this product and others like it have created for so many people working in salons, along with the turmoil and infighting that is going on behind closed doors.

Grown adults are being bullied for speaking up about being sick or for not wanting their clients to be exposed to the toxic fumes of formaldehyde. Many stylists are choosing to listen to a company that has done nothing but lie to them, instead of numerous government health agencies that are trying to protect and warn them about these dangers. If sore throats, bloody noses, rashes, respiratory problems, and even CANCER doesn’t scare them, maybe OSHA fining 26 salons for up to $17,000 each will get their attention!

Brazilian Blowout continues to blame the stylists for these ill health effects instead of the high levels of toxic formaldehyde. Now that the California Attorney General’s lawsuit has forced Brazilian Blowout to stop lying about being “safe” and “formaldehyde free” they may have come up with their craziest spin yet:

“Brazilian Blowout, like a number of products that we use each day, offer great benefits when used as directed. Aspirin, for example, can ease mild pain such as headaches. However, taking 12 aspirins at one time would result in adverse effects. Yet, no one has a fear of aspirin.”

Since when is cancer a great benefit? As ridiculous as it is to compare Brazilian Blowout to aspirin, unlike Brazilian Blowout, those aspirins would only harm the individual foolish enough to take 12 of them, and not innocent bystanders. That’s the story here: unsuspecting clients are being exposed to dangerous formaldehyde without their knowledge or consent.

The woman getting a hair smoothing treatment may be okay with exposing herself to the sensory irritation and carcinogenicity of formaldehyde, but what about everyone else in the room? Salons are filled with clients who have cancer and are going through chemotherapy, clients who are pregnant, clients with asthma, and mothers bringing their kids. People are getting sick when using this product “as directed” by the manufacturer and I have yet to see any of these companies set limits on how many of these toxic treatments a salon can do in one day. When we were performing this service in our salon, there were four Brazilian Blowouts done consecutively in one day alone.

The exposure doesn’t end when the client is finished with this service and walks out the door; these products reactivate every time you apply heat to them. Our salon owner had to put up a sign for our clients saying we can no longer provide any heat services on their hair if they’ve had ANY Keratin Smoothing Treatment in the last four months, because many of us were getting sick.

The GMA investigation exposes exactly why these products need to be recalled and taken off the market. The government warnings obviously are not getting to the stylists and these products are too dangerous to be used in salons. Innocent people are being exposed and people are getting sick. Visiting a salon should be a pleasurable experience, not a potential health hazard.

Five countries have already banned Brazilian Blowout, let’s make ours the sixth!

If you have been affected by Brazilian Blowout, the FDA needs to hear from you! Please go to the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance website and click on “tell the FDA your story.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Brazilian Blowout has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit for $4.5 million. As the New York Times reported today, Michael Brady, CEO of the company, said the settlement would be paid by his insurance company. He said the fact that the product does not need to be reformulated is “the acquittal we’ve been waiting for.” As I wrote in my earlier blog, Brazilian Blowout is the perfect case study for our broken system of consumer protection. A huge thank you to Jennifer Arce (that’s her above) and all the brave hair stylists who are speaking out about this injustice. – Stacy Malkan


March 2nd, 2012 at 12:07 pm by Stacy Malkan

Don’t miss this! Pink Skies, an inspirational documentary about the empowerment of women and the prevention of breast cancer, will premiere Saturday, March 3 on the Documentary Channel.

The film is about overcoming obstacles as athletes and as human beings. It covers an extraordinary event ‘Jump for the Cause’ that brought together 181 women from 31 countries to create a World Record All-Women’s Skydiving Formation — and raised almost $1 million for breast cancer research. Along with phenomenal sky diving footage, the film also features breast cancer survivors, cutting edge researchers, doctors, healers and activists — including Campaign for Safe Cosmetics co-founder Stacy Malkan, talking about cancer-causing chemicals in cosmetics.

This must-see film reveals breakthroughs that have not been widely publicized, explores whats working and what needs to be changed and the seismic shift towards prevention. Check out the Documentary Channel website for more info.

The full list of airdates for March is:
3/3 (Sat) = 8pm EST
3/3 (Sat) = 11pm EST
3/16 (Fri) = 8:30pm EST
3/16 (Fri) = 11:30pm EST

The film will also be available on the Documentary Channel website for streaming throughout the month of March.

Send a love letter to the beauty industry: Kiss lead goodbye

February 14th, 2012 at 10:08 am by Stacy Malkan

Lead-free kisses to you and yours this February! In honor of safe love, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has launched the Kiss Lead Goodbye Video/Photo Contest — inviting all you warriors for toxic-free products to tell the beauty industry: It’s time to get the lead out of lipstick.

Why? Because lead is extremely toxic in even the tiniest doses. Yet, according to a recent FDA study, hundreds of lipsticks contain lead (see today’s Reuter’s story). And some of the most popular brands  have the highest levels of all (hello L’Oreal, Maybelline, Cover Girl).

We want to hear what you have to say to these companies that are still selling leaded lipstick — and still saying “it’s safe because it’s legal” even though there are no safety standards and no regulations limiting lead in lipstick. For more on this story, see the Campaign’s letter to FDA.

While we’re waiting on FDA (and waiting and waiting), it’s time to turn up the volume.  Submit your photos and videos to the Kiss Lead Goodbye Contest here from Feb. 14-29 for a chance to win fabulous prizes and national recognition.

Check out the Campaign’s Video Valentine to the beauty industry and early entries on the Kiss Lead Goodbye Facebook page for some creative inspiration.

Love and lead-free kisses!

PS: Check out this great story about lead in lipstick from NBC in Tampa Bay

Brazilian Blowout: Perfect Case Study for our Broken System

January 30th, 2012 at 9:53 pm by Stacy Malkan

Kudos to California Attorney General Kamala Harris for doing what no other government agency in the U.S. has been able to do: get Mike Brady and the folks over at Brazilian Blowout to stop lying about the dangers of their products.

Until now, Brady and gang have been aggressively marketing their formaldehyde hair relaxers as safe for salons. Case in point: this letter Brady sent to a California hair stylist in January claiming that “misleading and conflicting information” caused “unfounded and unecccessary apprehension and concern” about their products.

Um, right. Never mind the multiple government warnings that Brazilian Blowout products emit high levels of formaldehyde — a known human carcinogen that can also cause breathing difficulties, bloody noses, nausea and other awful symptoms — and FDA’s recent threat to seize the products. Or that several countries banned these dangerous products in 2010. And even the industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel has called the products unsafe.

One gets the feeling that if God Himself came down and declared the danger of Brazilian Blowout treatments, Mike Brady would show up to deny the facts.

Well, no longer, thanks to the good folks at the California Attorney General’s office. Unfortunately, due to the limits of state law, the best the AG’s lawsuit could achieve was warning labels and accurate Material Safety Data Sheets — a righteous and all-too-obvious step forward, but sadly, the products will still be on the market, and salon workers will still be breathing in unsafe toxic exposures.

So why can’t the U.S. get these products off the shelves, as Canada and Europe have done? Lame federal laws from 1938 that give the FDA almost no authority to regulate cosmetics, and what little authority they do have, they don’t seem to be willing to use. It’s time to give cosmetics regulations a makeover — as we’ve been saying! — and a good place to start is the Safe Cosmetics Act, introduced into the US House last summer by the good Congresspeople Jan Schakowsky, Ed Markey and Tammy Baldwin. Stay tuned for news about this soon, and it may not be good.

Meantime, the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance is inviting hair stylists to write about their experiences with Brazilian Blowout at this link.

Here’s more recent news about toxic cosmetics:
Washington Post:
Soaps, makeup contain deadly ingredients, say consumer advocates
Lotions, washes with fewer ingredients and synthetic chemicals may be better

Forbes: Brazilian Blowout legally labeled carcinogenic, but will it matter? 

This just in: See me on CBS News Morning Show

Love this blog by Virginia Sole Smith!