{interview with stacy malkan}

Wednesday, August 4, 2010



Last week, I wrote a post expressing my wholehearted support for H.R. 5786 (The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010). Today, I am very happy to have a special guest. I would like to introduce you to Stacy Malkan, the Co-Founder of The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Malkan is also the author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry.

I felt compelled to ask this busy lady for an interview because I am shocked at the amount of misinformation and near hysteria out there surrounding this issue. I owe Ms. Malkan a big "thank you" for taking the time to answer my questions.


Chic & Green: Would you briefly explain why H.R. 5786 is so important?

Stacy Malkan:  This is the first opportunity we've had in over 70 years to overhaul cosmetic regulations to require companies to phase out the most harmful chemicals and be transparent about what's in their products. The bill would set up a system for to review the safety of cosmetics ingredients and will open up the information flow so that companies and consumers can make more informed choices. This would be a huge step toward a safer, sustainable cosmetics industry. We urge everyone to talk to your Congressional reps about the importance of safe cosmetics and ask them to co-sponsor the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010.

Chic & Green: One thing I keep reading over and over again is that our cosmetics are already safe. Do you agree?

Stacy Malkan: When the most popular baby shampoos and children's bath products on the market contain cancer-causing chemicals that are not listed on labels, something's not right. The companies say their products contain just low levels of toxic chemicals, but think about how many products we use every day. The average woman uses a dozen body-care products that contain more than a hundred chemicals. The exposures to the carcinogens, hormone-disrupting chemicals and other toxins in typical personal care products are adding up, day after day. The beauty industry can absolutely make safer products. They need to.  
 

Chic & Green: I think there is a real misconception out there that the FDA regulates beauty products and that there is someone out there checking products to ensure their safety. Is this the case?

Stacy Malkan: Most people believe that if a product is on the shelf, some government agency is making sure it's safe. That's not the case with personal care products. Companies are allowed to put nearly any chemical into personal care products sold in the U.S. with no required safety assessments, and with no follow-up health studies of highly exposed people (such as salon workers). Not all the ingredients have to be listed on labels, and FDA doesn't even have the power to recall products. For example, they couldn't order a recall of the skin whitening creams in Chicago that were recently found to contain illegal levels of mercury. 
 
Chic & Green:  One concern many of my readers have had is on the impact of small business. Is this something you would briefly address?

Stacy Malkan: Yes, it's very important to preserve the opportunities for small businesses! These Mom and Pop companies are the heart and soul of the cosmetics industry -- they are the ones innovating the best products and figuring out how to solve the toxicity problems of the past. We believe the Safe Cosmetics Act will achieve it's goal of safer products without harming small businesses, and while also providing benefits to small businesses, such as giving them access to a lot more toxicity information and making it easier for consumers to find the safest products. Here is more information about the impact to small companies.  


Chic & Green: A point I keep hearing is that this is a matter of choice--that consumers can choose to avoid products with toxins in them. Something I notice frequently on this blog is that when I post about ingredients, people will write to me and say they had no idea that these things are in beauty products. I really believe that we're not being our own best advocates here--many people simply do not understand the ramifications of what they apply to their skin. Is this simply a matter of choosing to avoid bad products?

Stacy Malkan: You named the problem exactly. The free market can't solve these problems as long as the true toxicity of products is hidden from consumers. When companies are fully transparent about what's in their products and when they have credible independently reviewed science to back up the safety -- then consumers will be able to make free and fully informed choices.

One last thought I'd like to share. These challenges aren't easy. The chemical problem has been decades in the making, and solving it is going to require all of us -- consumers, business owners, chemists, formulators, government agencies -- to reach deeper and think bigger. There are no magic bullet solutions, but the Safe Cosmetics Act is a big step in the right direction toward a healthier future that will benefit us all. 

Chic & Green: I would like to thank Stacy for taking the time for an interview with us today. She has really been someone I have looked up to in this industry because she truly is a voice for consumers, especially for those who are unaware of the effect of toxins in the beauty industry. 

I also want to give you a link right here to the website for The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

To get involved, click here to write to Congress showing your support for H.R. 5786.



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