I’ll get straight to the good part: What’s the deal with the lady from L’Oreal? Many of you asked me this after I tweeted: “L’Oreal rep is reportedly ‘very upset’ about my presentation.” So here’s what I can tell you about that story.

Just as I was about to get on stage to give my keynote speech at the NY Sustainable Cosmetics Summit, I was approached by the conference organizer. He had come to warn me that a woman from L’Oreal was “very upset” about the remarks I was about to give. She was insisting on a rebuttal and she had been calling and sending faxes to the Personal Care Products Council,   demanding that they get down to the Marriott right away to defend the industry (the trade association never did show up at the Summit, sustainability apparently not being one of their chief concerns).

The L’Oreal lady hadn’t actually heard my remarks, since I hadn’t given them yet, but she was triggered by two of my slides published in the conference manual:

“Lack of Safety Data” pointed out that 90% of chemicals on the market have no human health data and less than 20% of cosmetic ingredients have been assessed by the industry’s safety panel (I’m upset about that too!); my other slide described efforts to reform federal cosmetics regulations via the Safe Cosmetics Act.

Amarjit suggested I could omit the offending slides, to which I replied hell no, and pointed out that a little controversy is a good thing for this type of conference, which provides an important space to debate hot-button issues that are critical to the conversation about sustainability.

Sadly, the debate never materialized. The L’Oreal lady left before I spoke. Nobody ventured a difficult question or challenging opinion after my talks. I was left to wonder: Did I do such a good job that everyone in the room was convinced? Had all the big companies left by the Summit’s second day? Were people asleep?

I did get a lot of positive feedback from supporters — many people in the room worked for progressive businesses at the forefront of greening the industry — and as for the rest, I welcome rebuttals to the ideas I presented at the conference.  As promised, here are my two talks, and I’d love to hear your feedback.

For consumers, sustainability is about health. The big companies at the Summit were talking about sustainability in terms of packaging, waste, carbon footprint — things that save them money and things that, as fellow keynote speaker Bill McDonough pointed out, they are stupid not to do. What they’re not talking about: health. But this is the primary driver for women who are buying green products. Here’s more in my morning keynote address.

Smart companies are taking a precautionary approach. We used to believe the “dose makes the poison” but recent science has changed our understanding about the many ways chemicals can impact health. The warnings from the scientific community, increasing media attention and growing public awareness about the health impacts of chronic, low-dose toxic exposures are changing consumer preferences and prompting new policies that require transparency and precaution. Smart businesses understand these changing dynamics of the market and are getting ahead of the curve. Here’s my afternoon talk.

For more on these points, also check out the short video of my Organic Nation TV interview. And here are a few more highlights from the conference:

Thanks to @aeidinger and everyone else who was tweeting live from the #SustainableCosmetics Summit. Follow me on Twitter @SafeCosmetics. Here are more observations from the conference:

Bill McDonough rocked the house. The cosmetics industry, he said, has a design problem. He didn’t go into much detail about how to fix the problem (I think you have to hire Bill McDonough to find out), but he did offer these gems: “How about lead in your lipstick, is that smart? How about a neurotoxin in your face cream? Kiss your child, kiss of brain death … How can something be beautiful if it hurts healthy children and the planet?”

Very interesting presentation by Jenny Rushmore of Proctor & Gamble. She shared that the recent redesign of Gillette razors has saved hundreds of thousands of tons of plastic in one year — equivalent to the weight in plastic of a Boeing 747! I am stunned and pleased by that, although I can’t help thinking about all the plastic 747s that are still being created by making plastic disposable razors in the first place.  P&G is now experimenting with corn-based plastics. Possibly promising (though still polluting). Keep redesigning P&G!

A shout out to the brilliant Jody Villecco and her team at Whole Foods who are doing a huge favor to the natural products industry with their precautionary Premium Body Care Standards and decision to require organic certification for products marketed as organic.  We heard at the conference that Target is now considering adopting Whole Foods standards for natural personal care.

Thanks to the many great businesses that have supported the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit since the beginning and who are forging the path for a sustainable cosmetics industry. They are proving it can be done, that it’s possible to make non-toxic products that are just as good and sometimes better than the toxic conventional stuff — and that you can have a lot of fun doing it! Thanks also to Organic Monitor for organizing the Summit and for inviting the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to have a seat at the table. Hope to see you again next year!

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9 Responses to “”

  1. Tamara Laschinsky - Natural e GREEN Says:

    Good for you for standing your ground! It is time to put out both sides of the coin and consumer are learning how to read between the lines! It’s too common now to not believe what marketers are saying and more disclosure needs to happen for trust to begin again. How can any consumer believe the FDA’s intent for safety when it allows known carcinogens into consumer products (even if it is in ‘low’ or ‘moderated’ doses?) How can we believe the statements that “at this time we believe these ingredients are safe but if further information arises we will look into any possible health effects?” (Huh?)

    Consumers are realizing that there are toxins in what they are using and that the spokespeople who support using these ingredients are speaking out their lower end. Most of them don’t know and repeat what they’ve been told. Nothing is perfect but we have to do what we can to avoid as much as we can, pushing for answers and more human health studies.

    I am contacted daily by chemists and researchers who try to sway me on my viewpoint, telling me parabens are safe and studies show most of the chemicals have not been proven to be unsafe – to which I reply ” but they haven’t been proven to be safe either!” :) I will continue defending my beliefs and being open to learning new things as research and studies come to light. I will continue to fight for truth and full disclosure so that my children, all children and our environment stand a better chance of optimum health and longevity!

    Thanks for standing up for this and not backing down!

  2. Remy C. Says:

    Interesting what you wrote about Target adopting Whole Foods standards. I’m reading through this brand new book: Force of Nature, The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart’s Green Revolution. In it Hunter Lovins is quoted saying: “Wal-Mart pledges to be the world’s largest organic retailer.” Wal-Mart has a huge beauty product department. Has your organization met with them?

  3. Catherine Says:

    Good for you, Stacy, for never backing down. You have been a mentor, not only to me, but to so many people, because you have proven scientific facts to back up every statement. If you ever plan to visit Illinois again, I hope you can speak again at Moraine Valley Community College. Not only was it a great success, but I’m taking classes there this summer, and I just might have connections to stir things up there. :)

  4. Morangão Says:

    Excellent discussion…

  5. Kim Grustas Says:

    As always we are in awe of all you do! We commend you and are humbled by your tireless devotion.

  6. Shahida Siddique Says:

    Hi Stacy, we had a brief conversation in New York at the conference. Last week I had a press conference in Dubai promoting safe cosmetics. The buzz has started here with over 8 magazines and newspapers exposed to the hazards of chemical cosmetics. checkout spadunyaclub facebook. Enough is enough. Either its safe or its unsafe. Last week however we also participated in Beauty World Middle east. Hundreds of exhibitors from all over the world promoting toxins. What should one do? Its a monumental task.

  7. kelly Wagner Says:

    Thank you for saying Hell No! to omit the slides. Noone is being held accountable and what could the L’Oreal Rep have said as a rebuttal? That you are right? No wonder she left. I also am in awe of you and as a manager of a skin salon I personally promote SAFE sunscrfeen to all of our clients and give them a complimentary print out of your study and wildly talk about it to everyone I know!

  8. Millie Pastrana Says:

    Greetings: I just want to know it is possible to have your book in Spanish. The mayority of my friends in Puerto Rico want to buy the book in Spanish. Thank you very much for your attention to this matter. Sincerely, Millie.

  9. Stacy Malkan Says:

    Hi Millie,
    Thanks for your interest in my book. Unfortunately, it is not yet available in Spanish. It has been translated to Korean, and we are hoping for Spanish, but we need to find a publisher who will take it on. If you have any ideas or contacts in the publishing industry, please let me know! In the meantime, we do have Spanish materials available. Here are some links:

    Spanish brochure from Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: http://www.safecosmetics.org/downloads/Unmasked_espanol.pdf

    Story of Cosmetics with Spanish subtitles (click on “cc” button at bottom of screen)

    Muchas Gracias!

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