In Support of Racial Equality, Here’s Where We Are Donating

Over the past few weeks, we have been listening, processing, considering, and discussing the injustices impacting our BIPOC friends, family members, Associates, and community at large. In this moment, change is paramount, and we want to do that collectively as one community. We are holding ourselves accountable and reflecting on how we can use our platform to amplify Black voices. We’re doing the work to support our Black community, and we’re taking action in support of true change. (Learn more on that here.)

After much consideration and due diligence in researching where to donate funds in support of this change, we’ve chosen organizations that truly align with our mission and quest for safer products. We selected community-led groups that are working to eliminate systemic racism, have a history of leadership on these issues, and have Black leadership and/or founders. We have chosen these organizations because we believe that fighting for racial and environmental justice involves supporting those that directly impact and improve the lives of Black individuals and their communities. Keep in mind that by choosing to donate to these organizations, Beautycounter recognizes the important work they do, but does not automatically endorse the organizations’ past or present policy positions. We support their programs specific to removing toxic chemicals from beauty products for BIPOC and investing in the education of the next generation of leaders.

Today, we are proud to announce a commitment of $100,000 to Black Women for Wellness and the Visible Men Academy, while continuing to invest more resources into organizations and internal staffing. We also matched all HQ associate contributions to the organizations fighting racism of their choice for the month of June.

What Is Black Women for Wellness?

Black Women for Wellness (BWW) is a Los Angeles-based organization that promotes the health and well-being of Black women and girls through research, education, advocacy, and access to affordable health services. The organization is particularly focused on reducing the harmful ingredients often used in hair-care products marketed to Black women.

For years, Beautycounter has worked with BWW on advocacy initiatives to make personal-care products safer for our health. This year, we’re joining BWW again to support the California Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, which would ban harmful ingredients, like formaldehyde and parabens (often found in hair relaxers), from products sold in the state.

What Is Visible Men Academy?

Visible Men Academy (VMA) is a tuition-free school for boys in Bradenton, FL. The mission of VMA is to deliver a high-quality educational experience that meets the specific needs of at-risk elementary school boys through the collaborative efforts of administrators, teachers, parents, the broader community, and the students themselves.

Neil Phillips, CEO of Visible Men Academy, is regarded as a national thought-leader on Black male achievement, minority education, and youth empowerment. He is a member of Beautycounter’s expert advisory group focused on Community Expansion.

Shifting the Beautycounter Paradigm

Today, we are taking the next step in shifting Beautycounter into a new paradigm, by partnering with Paradigm to design and implement a comprehensive, data-driven diversity and inclusion strategy. We are proud to have Paradigm’s interdisciplinary experts leading the way, along with our internal Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisory Hub at HQ, to build a stronger, more inclusive Beautycounter.  

Our goal has always been to create a movement to protect the health and safety of people by getting safer, high-quality products to everyone. We cannot achieve our goal without making sure that we are doing our part to address the health and safety of a key part of our community: our BIPOC Associates, Consultants, and customers.

While we have grown our community and made progress toward that goal, we know that there is much more to be done. We recognize the road to change is not always smooth; however, we are committed to making a difference, and we are grateful to have Paradigm to guide us along the way. We strive to cultivate a community in which Associates, Consultants, and customers—regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity—truly feel that they belong.

As a brand with a unique voice and audience, we are not only utilizing our platform to take a stand, but we are learning how Beautycounter as an organization—and we as individuals—can become active allies to the BIPOC community in all that we do. We want to make sure all voices are heard, and we will ensure that there will be opportunities to engage in this work. Our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisory Hub will work with Paradigm to help us facilitate a streamlined and efficient way for everyone to get involved.

Our partnership with Paradigm marks a first step on what we know is an incredibly important journey. We are committed to sharing news and developments with you along the way. Watch this space for more information about the work we will be doing. 

Unequal Exposures to Toxic Chemicals

Beautycounter’s mission is to get safer products into the hands of everyone, which is why our advocacy work is so important. Beauty regulations must change in order for all people—regardless of where they shop or what brands they buy—to have access to safer personal-care products. This advocacy work is especially critical when it comes to protecting communities of color.

BIPOC face higher incidence of disease linked to chemical exposure

Research tells an upsetting story: Black, Indigenous,and People of Color (BIPOC) suffer from a higher incidence of chronic disease linked to toxic chemical exposure.[1] While various factors contribute to this statistic, personal-care products play a role and—importantly—create an opportunity for prevention.[2]

One reason for this higher risk is that the hair products, skin lighteners, and nail polishes marketed to this population contain ingredients that are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors.[3][4] A December 2019 study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that women who used hair dye or chemical straighteners were at higher risk of developing breast cancer.[5] This link was notably higher among Black women who regularly use products such as relaxers that contain formaldehyde, a preservative that is linked to certain cancers, and feminine hygiene products which often contain phthalates, a known hormone disruptor. [6]

Another study from UC Berkeley found that when Latinx teenagers switched to clean beauty products, the levels of parabens and phthalates in their bodies dropped significantly within three days.[7]

These findings show us two things: BIPOC have higher exposure to harmful chemicals in personal-care products, and switching to safer products can reduce one’s exposure within a short period of time.

We actively advocate to address racial disparities—and we won’t stop.

Our advocacy for safer products has resulted in tangible steps forward for consumers, especially communities of color. Our efforts so far have included the following:

●    Two laws we helped pass: the Cleaning Products Right to Know Act and the Safer Salon bill protect vulnerable populations like cleaners, hotel workers, and salon professionals by arming them with information to make safer choices. These professions are dominated by women (often women of color) who are exposed to dangerous chemicals for long periods of time in poorly ventilated areas.[8][9]

●   Partnerships with our friends at Black Women for Wellness, a LA-based, leading environmental justice organization, and the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, which organizes and advocates for salon workers, a demographic that is composed of predominantly women—a majority of whom are foreign-born, of Vietnamese and Hmong heritage.[10]

●   Holding two high-profile Congressional briefings highlighting the disparate impacts of harmful ingredients for people of color for Members of Congress and their staff. The briefings were sponsored by leaders of the Congressional Hispanic and Black caucuses who recognize the importance of these issues to communities of color.

We believe that access to products without harmful ingredients is a human right. By passing legislation to move the whole market forward, many industry players will be forced to innovate and create safer products for women of color.

Meanwhile, at Beautycounter HQ…

In tandem with our federal reform efforts, we’ve been working hard to offer more clean beauty products for women of color, including 18 new foundation shades and more pigmented blushes, lipsticks, and eye shadows. According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep database, fewer than 25 percent of products marketed to Black women score low in potentially hazardous ingredients. We want to change this and we are committed to creating more beauty options for women of color.

We will continue to place environmental justice at the forefront of our advocacy efforts, so Beautycounter can have a meaningful impact on eliminating the gap in racial health disparities. We know we must do more—and this is just the beginning.

[1] Maningding E, Dall’Era M, Trupin L, Murphy LB, Yazdany J. Racial/Ethnic Differences in Prevalence of and Time to Onset of SLE Manifestations: The California Lupus Surveillance Project (CLSP). Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/acr.23887

[2] Adamkiewicz G, Zota AR, Fabian MP, Chahine T, Julien R, Spengler JD, et al. Moving environmental justice indoors: understanding structural influences on residential exposure patterns in low-income communities. Am J Public Health 2011;101(suppl 1): S238–45 www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21836112/

[3] James-Todd, Tamara, African American and African-Caribbean women are more likely to use hair products that contain hormonally active chemicals (placenta, estrogen, endocrine disrupting chemicals), www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21626298

[4] Zota, Ami, Women of color are disproportionately affected by environmental toxins such as beauty-product related environmental chemicals. This is independent of socioeconomic status, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28822238

[5] Eberle, Sandler, Taylor, White, Hair dye and chemical straightener use and breast cancer risk in a large US population of black and white women. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ijc.32738

[6] Zota, Ami, Vaginal douching increases exposure to certain phthalates and contributes to the racial disparities in phthalate exposure, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26174070

[7] Harley, Kim et al. Reducing Phthalate, Paraben, and Phenol Exposure From Personal Care Products in Adolescent Girls: Findings From the HERMOSA Intervention Study, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26947464/

[8] Economic Snapshot of the Salon and Spa Industry, Senate Finance Archive, https://www.finance.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Professional%20Beauty%20Association-%202014%20Economic%20Snapshot%20of%20the%20Salon%20Industry.pdf

[9] Nail Files: A Study of Nail Salon Workers and Industry in the United States, UCLA Labor Center, www.labor.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NAILFILES_FINAL.pdf

[10] Ibid.


WE WILL DO BETTER

We want to thank the @pullupforchange campaign for calling on companies to share the number of Black full-time associates on their corporate team and in leadership roles. Accountability is key—and because we stand for transparency, we want to share our numbers, too.

Beautycounter has 235 full-time associates on our corporate team:

79% are women
21% are men
63% are White
30% are non-Black POC 
7% are Black


On our executive leadership team (made up of seven people):

6 women
1 man
58% are White
42% are non-Black POC
0% are Black 


On our leadership team (director level or above):

75% are White
12% are Asian
5% are Hispanic or Latinx
4% are Black
4% are two or more races

We recognize our shortcomings—we need stronger Black representation. Here’s how we’re taking action:

We will continue to ensure that we have a diverse slate of candidates for each open position, including leadership roles.

We will continue Unconscious Bias training for associates, a program that is part of our ongoing education series to raise awareness about the issue. To date, 100% of our associates have completed the training.

We are adding mandatory Diversity training for all associates.

We will have managers and above receive training on creating Psychological Safety with their teams and fellow associates.

We have created Associate Resource Groups to support and create action plans for our Black, Asian, Latinx, and LGBTQ communities.

We will continue to check in and have transparent conversations about anti-racism both at HQ and in our community (that includes anyone reading this).

We are donating funds to support anti-racist organizations. (More on that coming soon. We are identifying platforms that will get to the root of the issue, and we spent last week listening, as promised. We don’t take these decisions lightly and want to take our time to get it right.) We are also matching all HQ associate contributions to the organizations fighting racism of their choice for the month of June.

We are showing up for our Black Consultants and Clients and increasing representation throughout our social media, marketing efforts, and the products we sell—while re-examining our HQ corporate policies and diversity programs to ensure that they’re equitable and reflect our values.

We are listening to all of you. Understanding our own role in racism is uncomfortable—but necessary. Let us know how you think we could be doing a better job. We’re paying attention.

We are advocating for ongoing policy change and mobilizing our community to vote in November’s election. (As a non-partisan organization, we’ll never tell you who to vote for, but we believe voting is empowering. Register to vote if you haven’t here.)

We believe that if we stay committed to fighting racism within our organization and beyond, we will uphold our promise of creating a safer future for all.


We WILL do better.


#pulluporshutup


TIME TO STEP UP FOR EQUALITY: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO TAKE ACTION NOW.

We will do better.  Our country’s racial inequality has been made gravely clear. As a brand with a unique voice and an audience of millions, we’re utilizing our platform to take a stand. Black lives matter. We are committed to fighting for justice, and for speaking up for what we know is right.  

We’ve carefully compiled a list of resources to educate non-Black individuals, because knowledge is power and therefore crucial to effect meaningful change. This is an ever-evolving list, so be sure to check back for new ways to support anti-racism. What are we doing here at Beautycounter? That’s in here too.

LEARN & DONATE

We have compiled a list of resources. While we do not endorse the policy positions of these organizations, in the spirit of our pillar of education, we would like to provide you with a list to learn from and choose whose work resonates with you the most.

Campaign Zero Dedicated to ending policy violence by focusing on policy solutions. The organization’s work specifically urges policy makers to take deliberate action to limit police intervention, improve community interactions, and ensure accountability at every level of government.

NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund The United States’ first and largest grassroots-based civil rights organization is dedicated to creating change through legal action to ensure the health and well-being of all people.

ACLU This nonprofit, nonpartisan organization upholds the United States Constitution for all by fighting government abuse and defending individual freedoms. The ACLU’s vital work focuses on change through legal action.

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights The largest and most diverse civil and human rights coalition in the U.S., strives for change through policy.

Equal Justice Initiative Led by Bryan Stevenson, author of “Just Mercy,” this organization is committed to ending mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality in the U.S. with a focus on change through legal action.

National Movement for Black Lives Matter This coalition of groups across the United States represents the interests of Black communities, seeking to mobilize, organize, and strategize to protect Black lives. Founded on the idea that we can achieve more together, this movement is geared towards change through policy.

Black Lives Matter Founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murder, #BlackLivesMatter is a global organization focused on community building and ending white supremacy.

Visible Men Academy: Established as a tuition-free, public charter school, the Visible Men Academy is on a mission to provide an educational experience that meets the specific needs of at-risk elementary school boys through the collaborative efforts of teachers, parents and the broader community. The organization was founded by Neil Phillips who has previously appeared as a guest speaker at Beautycounter’s Leadership Summit. 

Black Women for Wellness: BWW is committed to the health and well-being of Black women and girls through health education, empowerment and advocacy. By advocating for legislation that reduces toxic chemical exposures and in particular, the harmful chemicals in hair care products marketed to BIPOC, BWW’s advocacy reaches beyond California to communities of color around the country.  

WE ACT for Environmental Justice: On a mission to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. They are a nationally recognized leader in environmental justice with a long history of working to address toxic chemicals in products.

REGISTER TO VOTE

Voting is essential to changing our country’s laws. Register here, and encourage everyone you know to do the same.


GET EDUCATED

Here’s some recommend reading for non-Black individuals.


SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES

Vote with your dollars—this tool will help you discover Black-owned businesses in your area. In LA like us? The LA Times and TimeOut both offer extensive lists.

SHOP BLACK-OWNED BRANDS

Here are a few we love.

84Gem

Aba Love Apothecary

Anne’s Apothecary

Aqua Equity Water Co.

Black Girl Sunscreen

BLK & BOLD

BLK + GRN

Briogeo

Brooklyn Blooms NYC

Clare

Dr Locs

Ellie Bianca

Epi.logic

FORM

Galerie.LA

Golde

Hanahana Beauty

Herb’n Beauty

Hyper Skin

I+I Botanicals

LAMIK

LOOM

Melanin Essentials

Mented

Meraki

Minimo Skin Essentials

Mischo Beauty

Movita

NaturAll Club

Naturally London

Obia Naturals

Ooli

OrganiGrowHairCo

Oui the People

People of Color

Shani Darden

Sienna Naturals

TCTLE

The Foundry

The Glowercy

The Honey Pot Co

Unsun

Vegan Skin

Whit Hazen

For a more comprehensive round-up of Southern California local businesses, take a look at LA Magazine’s list.

WHAT ARE WE DOING AT BEAUTYCOUNTER?

We’re putting in the work. Here’s how:

  1. By donating funds to support anti-racist organizations. (More on that coming soon. We are identifying platforms that will get to the root of the issue.) We are also matching all HQ Associate contributions to the organizations of their choice for the month of June.
  2. By showing up for our Black Consultants and Clients and increasing representation throughout our social media, marketing efforts, and the products we sell—while re-examining our HQ corporate policies and diversity programs to ensure that they’re equitable and reflect our values.
  3. By listening to all of you. Understanding our own role in racism is uncomfortable—but necessary. Let us know how you think we could be doing a better job. We’re paying attention.
  4. By advocating for ongoing policy change and mobilizing our community to vote in November’s election. 
  5. By sharing these helpful resources. The evolving list, above, is designed to help inform and educate non-Black individuals, because we know that learning is an essential step towards meaningful change.  

Remember: keep checking back. We will continue to update this list. Because Black Lives Matter.



How Beautycounter Defines Vegan

For years, we’ve heard from Clients and Consultants that they are seeking products that are vegan. While Beautycounter is not a vegan brand, over the years, we’ve worked hard to increase our number of products containing non-animal-derived ingredients, by-products, and processing agents. Starting this month, we will have an even easier way for people to identify which products are vegan, as defined below, with the launch of the Beautycounter vegan badge.

A Beautycounter product is vegan if it does not contain, and is not processed with, animal- derived ingredients or by-products. You may ask, why aren’t all Beautycounter products vegan? Safety has always been our company’s North Star and, as the clean beauty leader, safety has always been our priority. Given how restrictive our Never List™ is, we sometimes need to choose animal-derived ingredients because they are the safer option to deliver the quality and performance we are looking for in a cosmetic or skin-care product.

Take our Peppermint and Calendula Lip Conditioners, for example. These products contain lanolin, a wax derived from sheep’s wool. Lanolin is boiled out of wool that has already been sheared and then filtered, causing no harm to the sheep during its production. Our safety team believes that lanolin is a safer ingredient than alternatives to achieve the hydration, texture, and feel of our Lip Conditioner, and we use high-quality lanolin from sheep in Australia and New Zealand.

Lastly, a little clarification: a product that is labeled “vegan” does not mean that it is “cruelty-free.” Good news: Beautycounter has never tested our products on animals, and last year, we became a part of the Leaping Bunny Program which certified our commitment.

To find Beautycounter products which have the vegan badge, please visit www.beautycounter.com/products/vegan to see the most up-to-date list of products with the vegan designation. Note that we cannot guarantee that our products are manufactured in a vegan facility, so we encourage those with allergies to animal-derived substances to consult a doctor prior to use.

Setting the Highest Bar in Clean Beauty

Our 23 Health and Environmental Endpoints

From moisturizers and serums to shampoos and conditioners, consumers have more clean beauty options than ever—and we love that fact. As a brand recognized for our leadership in this growing category, our in-house team of scientists works hard to stay up-to-date with the latest peer-reviewed scientific literature to ensure that our formulations are always 100% safe. 

One result of this research is our Never List™: an industry-leading list of over 1,800+ ingredients we never use in our product formulations. But what really makes us the leader in clean beauty is how we screen each and every ingredient in our formulas for 23 health and environmental endpoints. Examining these endpoints is part of our newly launched Blueprint for Clean, a roadmap that sets the highest bar for safety in the beauty industry. 

To examine the 23 health and safety endpoints, we rely on up to 17 unique databases, like the EU’s REACHProp 65, and EPA lists—data and research studies that have been peer-reviewed (the gold standard in the scientific research community). However, there are also lots of unstudied ingredients. We never assume that an ingredient is safe. Instead, for questionable ingredients we collaborate with leading academic institutions, like Tufts University, to close this data gap and publicly share our findings. 

Beautycounter invests in research and testing because we know that certain ingredients have proven potential dangers, like endocrine disruption, reproductive harm, or links to increased risks of cancer, as well as possible skin or eye irritation. We also devote a lot of time to researching the environmental impact of ingredients—like how ingredients in sunscreen worn at the beach could damage coral reefs, or how long an ingredient lasts in the soil before breaking down. 

The truth is that the beauty industry is largely unregulated, and companies often have to define what “clean” means for themselves. For us, clean beauty is about being transparent with our ingredient selection process, so customers can make an informed decision about what they put on their bodies every day. Because we believe beauty isn’t just about how you look, but how it makes you feel—from the inside out. 

Straight to the Source

Beautycounter is known for creating clean, effective products using the safest ingredients. But for us, “clean” is about more than what goes into a product. It’s about the entire process, from start to finish. That’s why we’ve worked hard to build a responsible sourcing program to address ingredients known to have environmental and human rights impacts. Here’s how we’re leveraging our purchasing power to help make people’s lives better. 

Mica 

You know how certain cosmetic powders, like highlighter and eyeshadow, give that pretty, shimmery glow? You can thank mica for that—but sourcing this mineral has its issues. Our in-depth mica documentary exposed the unethical practices prevalent in the industry, and showed how Beautycounter is transforming our supply chain to uphold the “responsible” part of our sourcing. By the end of 2020, we will have proudly audited 100 percent of our mica suppliers. 

Vanilla 

Mmmm—the sumptuous scent of vanilla is found in Beautycounter’s sheer lipsticks and lip glosses. But as sweet as it smells, the vanilla industry has a dark side that includes child labor. One of our 2020 goals is to fully trace our vanilla supply chain, and we’re doing that by conducting on-the-ground, third-party audits to fully understand where our vanilla is coming from and how workers are being treated. Stay tuned—we’ll share our progress later this year. 

Palm Oil 

Though palm oil’s unsustainable practices can be damaging to the environment, Beautycounter currently uses palm derivatives to create clean skin-care products. This is because alternative ingredients (like rapeseed and soybean) are potentially even more harmful. To address these issues, we joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which helps businesses source more environmentally friendly palm oil. Beautycounter has been working with all of our contract manufacturing partners to help them become RSPO-certified members. This way, the RSPO-Certified palm oil with which they formulate can be officially highlighted in Beautycounter’s claims. It’s our goal to push for all of our products to be RSPO-certified; a critical piece of that is ensuring that our partners go through the final paperwork and audit process. We are also a founding member of the Sustainable Chemistry Alliance which advocates for green chemistry legislation in DC, focused on funding research on innovative and more sustainable ingredients. 

Creating safer beauty products that benefit both your health and the earth—while protecting human rights—is hard work. But we believe that knowledge combined with transparency is the winning formula for creating an ethical and sustainable supply chain. We’ll always keep you informed, so check back for updates, and until then, read up on our responsible sourcing program

Meet the Experts Making Beauty Better

Introducing the Beautycounter Science Advisory Council.

Decades of peer-reviewed research show a link between daily exposure to certain harmful chemicals and negative health outcomes such as cancer, infertility, and hormone disruption. But, as we know, cause and effect are complex and dependent on a variety of factors. That is why we work with leading academic researchers and scientists across the country to do our best to reduce environmental exposure wherever possible.  We believe that using the best-available science is important to reduce exposure to harmful ingredients and we’ve hired an all-star, in-house team of scientists to help us do so. We also recruited some of the brightest minds within the independent scientific and medical community to serve as a sounding board for our approach to safety. 

Today, we’re excited to introduce these leading researchers, health professionals, and organizations as we launch the Beautycounter Science Advisory Council. This group of experts shares our passion for making informed and precautionary decisions when formulating products. Their research will help guide and inform us about ingredient safety, making sure we are always ahead of the curve. We are so honored to have this team on our side—together, we’re going to make better beauty for all.

It’s hard for us to describe the breadth and caliber of these leaders, so we will let their work speak for itself. Collectively this group has published nearly 500 peer-reviewed papers on topics ranging from the health impacts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals to the effects of inaction on our global economy.

Get to know our esteemed Science Advisory Council: 

Kim Harley, MPH PhD

Associate Professor of Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health, UC Berkeley School of Public Health

Dr. Harley is a reproductive epidemiologist whose research focuses on endocrine-disrupting chemicals and women’s health, including associations with fertility, birth outcomes, timing of puberty, and obesity. Her latest research investigates chemicals of concern in cosmetics and personal care products marketed towards minority women. Dr. Harley has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers on the health effects and exposure patterns of phthalates, parabens, BPA, flame retardants, pesticides, and other endocrine disruptors in our homes and daily lives.  

 Joe Laakso, PhD

Director, Science Policy at the Endocrine Society—the leading professional organization for endocrinologists, who are on a mission tounite, lead, and grow the endocrine community to accelerate scientific breakthroughs and improve health worldwide.

Dr. Laakso helps the world’s leading experts in the field of endocrinology to advance policies that accelerate scientific discovery and ensure that endocrine science is reflected in legislation and regulatory decision making. Dr. Laakso is passionate about the promise of research and the ability of governments to use scientific knowledge to advance effective, science-based policies. He uses his blend of scientific and policy expertise to distill and communicate complicated scientific issues to policymakers and other audiences.

Allyson Ocean, MD

Medical oncologist and attending physician in hematology and medical oncology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center; Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell and the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center.

Dr. Ocean is a principal investigator on clinical trials with novel therapeutics, radiolabeled therapies, antibody-drug conjugates, and targeted therapies. She is the author of numerous peer-reviewed articles and abstracts and is an active member of several professional societies, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology and American Association for Cancer Research. Dr. Ocean also represents Stand Up to Cancer,  and is the co-founder of two nonprofits in the cancer space: Michael’s Mission and Let’s Win Pancreatic Cancer.

Lora Shahine, MD, FACOG

Reproductive endocrinologist at Pacific NW Fertility and Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle specializing in infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss.  

Dr. Shahine is the accomplished author of three books that take an integrative approach to fertility care and recurrent miscarriage, including her best-selling book, Not Broken, as well as over 50 peer-reviewed clinical research papers. She is passionate about increasing awareness of the reproductive and overall health impact of environmental toxins and endocrine disruptors through legislative advocacy, speaking, writing, and an active social media presence.

Ana Soto, MD

Professor of Immunology, Tufts University School of Medicine. Blaise Pascal Chair 2013-15 and Fellow at the Centre Cavaillès, Ecole Normale Supérieure of Paris.

Dr. Ana Soto is an internationally renowned leader in environmental health and a pioneer in the field of endocrine disruptors. Her research team discovered the deleterious effects of fetal exposure to bisphenol-A, a chemical often used in plastic products. She was instrumental in providing evidence that resulted in laws banning BPA from food-contacting materials in France. Together with Dr. Carlos Sonnenschein she authored the book The Society of Cells; published in 1999, it has become a classic of cancer biology. Dr Soto has published over 150 peer-reviewed articles both on experimental and theoretical biology. She and her team of scientists also work on identifying the endocrine effects of ingredients used in personal care products and plastic packaging. Dr. Soto was elected a member of the prestigious Collegium Ramazzini, Carpi, Italy in 2011, and is the recipient of several awards, including the Grand Vermeil Medal, the highest distinction from the City of Paris, for her pioneering role in the discovery of endocrine disruptors and her contributions to public health.

Leo Trasande, MD, MPP

Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Pediatrics; Chief, Division of Environmental Pediatrics; Professor of Environmental Medicine & Population Health, NYU School of Medicine

Dr. Trasande is an internationally renowned leader in children’s environmental health, a pediatrician, a prolific researcher, and the author of the best-selling book Sicker Fatter Poorer. His research focuses on identifying the role of environmental exposures in childhood obesity and cardiovascular risks. He examines the effects of chemicals like phthalates, bisphenols, organophosphate pesticides, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on fetal as well as postnatal growth and early cardiovascular and renal risks. Dr. Trasande leads one of 35 centers across the country as part of the National Institute of Health’s Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes program and is Principal Investigator on numerous NIH-funded projects. He is perhaps best known for a series of landmark studies that document disease costs due to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

 Sara Wordingham, MD, FAAHPM

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Center for Palliative Medicine, Mayo Clinic

Dr. Wordingham is an accomplished clinician and patient advocate who is passionate about medical ethics, whole-person care, and maximizing quality of life for patients and loved ones facing advanced illness. After watching her older sister become an advocate for clean beauty products, she began questioning if there were not safer ways to care for our bodies and exploring how physicians can help promote change. As someone who sees patients with advanced cancer and heart disease on a daily basis, she hopes to continue to innovate and advocate for safer environmental health practices.

Peeling Back the Curtain: All About Heavy Metals in Color Cosmetics

Beauty marketing claims may lead consumers to believe that “natural” means “safe”—but that isn’t always the case, and heavy metals are a prime example. These naturally occurring elements (arsenic, cadmium, lead, etc.) are plentiful within the earth, but may be harmful to our health depending on various factors such as route of exposure and quantity—and unfortunately they may be present in color cosmetics.

That’s why Beautycounter is tackling this issue head-on. We believe that safer products are built on a foundation of transparency—and we’re using the launch of our very own in-house product testing laboratory as an opportunity to share our safety standards. In the first of a series of posts, “Transparency in Action” will show you how Beautycounter is leading industry efforts in this area.

How do heavy metals end up in color cosmetics in the first place?

Heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury are not intentionally added to beauty products. These metals are often present in raw materials and naturally mined colors that eventually become ingredients in color cosmetics. In other words, they make their way into products by tagging along with other ingredients as contaminants.

Just like gold, heavy metals are distributed throughout the ground in highly variable and often unpredictable ways. That makes it pretty difficult to know where they will be found and in what concentrations (so it’s not as simple as finding a “clean” source, unfortunately). So, when other ingredients like colors are mined, unwanted heavy metals may be inadvertently pulled from the earth as well. This means that using only naturally derived colors doesn’t necessarily mean a product is inherently safer. 

What can we do about unwanted heavy metals in color cosmetics?

As with the safety and sustainability of our products, Beautycounter takes a leading approach to addressing this issue.

We use innovative formulas.

Our color cosmetics include a blend of rigorously screened, naturally derived and synthetic colorants. We found that this blend helps minimize the amount of unwanted heavy metals that can make their way into products, as we continue to strive for the safest formulas possible. Fun fact: the European Union allows 153 colorants in color cosmetics, the United States 65, and Beautycounter? We currently have only approved 18 colorants for use in our products.

We take product testing very seriously.

We test the ingredients used in our color cosmetics and finished cosmetic products obsessively—multiple times—before they go to market. We only use validated test methods and the most advanced laboratory equipment available (Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometer, ICP-MS). This allows us to test for heavy metals at concentrations ten times lower than what is standard practice in the beauty industry (1 part per billion vs 10 parts per million).

To break this down a step further, we check for heavy metals in products at the lowest concentrations scientifically possible through at least a 1ppb detection limit, whereas some equipment has detection limits of 10 ppm. Under this scenario, anything less than 10 ppm would appear as “passing” (or, in scientific lingo, “non-detect”). It is common to use less precise testing, if testing is performed at all. This is why it’s critically important to understand how brands are testing for heavy metals, since catchy headlines don’t tell the full story.

We take action.

If our test results show heavy metals at concentrations that concern us, we immediately investigate and address potential contamination issues with our suppliers, sometimes halting the production or launch of a product. We have a state-of-the-art, in-house lab (allowing for nimble testing throughout the product development process, rather than a “one and done” approach) and we rely on third-party tests to validate our results throughout the year. Our third-party testing facility tests in “duplicates,” a scientific term to describe testing each product twice, to account for variability in how heavy metals may be distributed.

Curious to see some test results yourself? You can view recent test results here.

Beautycounter sets strict standards.

We use the best-available science to establish limits that reflect the specific characteristics of different heavy metal contaminants. Our team of scientists uses a variety of criteria to set our internal limits and we review these with external experts annually.

We fight for stronger regulations to help protect everyone.

We actively advocate for more stringent federal regulations to reduce heavy metal exposure across the industry (you can read an op-ed from our CEO on this topic here). Our CEO recently testified before the House of Representatives asking Congress for more regulations of beauty industry.

What do Beautycounter’s heavy metals test results reveal?

While some companies make claims to be “heavy metal free” or “lead free,” our testing shows such claims cannot be supported since heavy metals are naturally occurring contaminants in colorants. But that does not stop us from trying to bring a new level of rigor to the beauty industry.

Recent test results from Beautycounter product testing can be viewed here. For extra credit, you can also view our talc test results here.

Table 1. Average Heavy Metals Concentrations and Limits (ppm) from 2019 color cosmetic products testing data

Heavy Metal Average Beautycounter Concentrations (ppm)1   FDA Regulatory Limits (ppm)2,3
Arsenic 0.1 3.0
Antimony 0.2 None
Cadmium 0.02 None
Lead (lip) 0.2 10.0 (all products)
Lead (non-lip) 0.6   10.0 (all products)
Mercury 0.01 1.0

1 Based on third-party testing data for Beautycounter color cosmetic products made and tested in 2019.

2FDA Regulatory Limits shown are for concentrations in raw ingredients.

3 The FDA also has limits established for heavy metal impurities in color additives as ingredients, which are not shown. Source: https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/potential-contaminants-cosmetics/fdas-testing-cosmetics-arsenic-cadmium-chromium-cobalt-lead-mercury-and-nickel-content#limits

As you can see, these average concentrations are also well below FDA limits.

Not surprisingly, given the challenges in the sourcing of colors described above, we may detect concentrations of heavy metals in batches of products that exceed our own internal limits. These situations are more rare than frequent and are also unpredictable. Even samples taken from the same product but in different spots can yield different levels of heavy metals when tested. For example, taking samples from opposite corners of an eyeshadow pan can give you different concentrations when heavy metals are present.

If our testing reveals a product that exceeds our internal limits, we prevent it from being sold (even if it meets all relevant regulatory limits).

How do Beautycounter’s heavy metals limits compare to common industry practice?

You may notice that heavy metal concentrations and limits for other brands of color cosmetics are missing from the table above. It is not industry practice to publicly disclose test results or publish heavy metal concentrations allowed in most brands’ products. In some cases, we understand that brands may simply be relying on guarantees from ingredient suppliers instead of conducting testing on their own products.


Looking ahead

Beautycounter is doing everything possible to reduce heavy metals exposure from color cosmetics—and we will continue to improve our efforts. Most importantly, we want you to be in the know about everything we do, because understanding the “whys” and “hows” helps you make the best decisions for yourself and your family. This is the power of transparency.