Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Colorado turns down cosmetic bill based on bad science

Yesterday, myself and many colleagues in the personal care industry listened live for 5+ hours as Colorado voted down The Colorado Safe Personal Care Act (pdf). The bill proposed banning any amount of toxin in ingredients, even naturally occurring trace amounts found in ingredients like olive oil to be used in skin care products. While the premise and name of the Act seem like something I'd support, upon research last week it became clearly evident that Colorado had not done their homework. Why ban something like olive oil or cocoa in cosmetics when we ingest much higher quantities in our food on a daily basis? The testimonies by scientists on both sides of the issue ended up making this point as well when questioned by Colorado Representatives. It became evidently clear through questioning during the testimonies that many who initially supported this bill did not fully understand the implications of trace amounts of substances. Thankfully, the bill was voted down 7-4 based on bad science.

I feel silly saying this given that I was raised eating from a natural food co-op, lived off the grid for 2 years, started a company based on a byproduct, and founded GreenSkincareBlog.com but for the record:

I am in 100% complete support of
safe personal care and cosmetics.

I am NOT, however, in support of the way The Campaign for
Safe Cosmetics rates toxins in the
Skin Deep database
Why? It's simple. They are not telling the full story, based on scientific evidence. The Skin Deep database is The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics "rating system" for cosmetic formulations. Sounds like a good idea, right?
It rates your formulas negatively for certain natural, vitamin and antioxidant rich ingredients like olive oil or cocoa butter. Why? Because these botanical ingredients contain naturally occurring trace amounts of toxins... Just like our soil, salt, water or our bodies for that matter! Our bodies create small amounts of formaldehyde (which is a known toxin.) Trace amounts of toxins are all around us in the air we breathe, water we drink, ground we stand on and food we eat. During the hearing a well researched scientist, Dr. Richard Adamson, who testified on behalf of the Personal Care Products Council, stated "dose differentiates a toxicity from remedy." The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has not taken into account the "dose" of toxins in ingredients. I for one am not going to eliminate these powerful ingredients from my natural skin care formulations just so The Grapeseed Company's products reflect the "best score" in the Skin Deep database. Which sounds crazy, but it's what certain companies are trying to do to look "better" than their competitors. I have even custom formulated a line for a company emerging on the natural scene that stated this as their agenda. For many difficult reasons, I chose to end that business relationship and no longer work with the company, and am taking a firm stance on where I stand with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. I was an early signer of The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics before the current Skin Deep database was in place. I have attended Campaign for Safe Cosmetics annual meetings and heard first hand as leaders in the natural personal care industry have suggested revising the system to tell the whole truth and The Campaign has continued on with their own biased agenda. We cannot afford to let the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics lobby legislation in other states based on poor research and incomplete science. Hopefully Colorado bill HB1248 being turned down will set a precedent for other states with pending legislation.


  1. Excellent summary. It is important for us to make it clear that being against foolhardy laws does not make one against safe personal care products. I'm glad you are making that point so eloquently, not only here at your blog but with your products! Go!

  2. Thanks dM- you said it all in this sentence "It is important for us to make it clear that being against foolhardy law does not make one against safe personal care products." For over a year, I have wrestled with how to voice where I stand and have not publicly spoken out on my blog about this prior because it is confusing to people. After listening to the rep from the CFSC speak yesterday, that pushed me over the edge to make it clear where I stand as a small business owner who handcrafts natural and organic personal care products.

  3. Great common sense summary. I added it to my blog linking to blogs breaking down the details from the Colorado hearing. Thanks for all you do and for what you stand for!

  4. Thanks Kayla, I was just thinking tomorrow I would do a follow up post linking to all the great info that has been blogged about re: this bill by experts including scientific evidence, legal ramifications, effects on small biz owners, personal summaries and more. Thank you for your efforts and everything YOU do!

  5. To clarify, the Colorado bill did NOT include natural food-grade ingredients. It covered 15 chemicals and substances that are already banned from cosmetics in the EU and that are not found in most high-quality natural personal care products.

    I think it's important to also point out that it's not just the dose that makes the poison; the timing of the dose and the size of the person exposed matter a lot (growing children are 65 times more vulnerable to cancer-causing chemicals than adults, according to EPA). Some hormone disrupting chemicals are more toxic at lower doses than higher ones.

    Given the uncertainty, why risk putting known carcinogens on a baby's head? Yet some popular baby shampoos contain carcinogens like formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane, even though safer alternatives are available.

    Fortunately, many small businesses are making great products without using these hazardous chemicals -- and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics works to educate the public about that fact every single day.

    I think we have more common ground than differences. Thank you for listening.

    Stacy Malkan
    Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

  6. Thanks for your comment Stacey, I appreciate you voicing your opinion.

    First off, I thought we were on the same page too…. Initially. I handcraft products that are 99-100% natural, use 80% or more organic ingredients in my formulations and have created a brand from the byproduct of wine. (Please feel free to click the links above to learn more about my upbringing, being raised on organic food, and unique green living conditions.) Then I educated myself by attending the compact signers meeting at Expo West in LA last March. Now, I forgive me if I’m wrong, but I did not see you at that meeting. Were you present? At your Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Annual Meeting with Compact Signers, that is. There were only about 20 of us that showed up, pretty meager showing for the annual compact meeting of signers. I learned after much had to do with the fallout and frustration at the Expo East meeting the previous fall. Questions were not allowed during the Campaign’s presentation at the meeting I attended. This was made abundantly clear to us by major repetition before the presentation began, like we were kindergarteners. When we finally were allowed to ask questions, companies such as Pangaea Organics and Aubrey Organics asked why the skin deep system was rating natural ingredients negatively, and if anything was going to be done to change the system to allow for percentage in product. To my knowledge, nothing has been done in your system to change this. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Just so you are aware, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics also threatened us that if we did not enter our proprietary ingredients in the Skin Deep system, we’d be kicked out of it.

    Also I must ask, did you read the proposed CO. bill? Did you listen to the 5 hrs. of testimonies and questions by the Colorado Reps yesterday? It was more that the 15 banned EU ingredients, and that was proven by the scientists who testified on both sides and vote by Colorado to turn down the bill.

  7. Stacey,
    I would be more than willing to work together to educate about safe cosmetics, but I will not be bullied into registering my natural and organic products into a system that does not include the full story after many people in the natural personal care industry have asked for it for years. Maybe it's time to work with us all.

  8. Ms. Malkan,

    I am the president of the Indie Beauty Network, a trade organization representing small cosmetics manufacturers. Kristen Fraser Cotte is a member, as are several other former compact signers.

    If there is more common ground than differences, let's talk. How can I get in touch with you? If you do not wish to respond here, please email me at indiebusiness [at] gmail [dot] com. Thank you.

  9. Hi Kristen,
    I did read the bill, no I didn't listen to all the testimony, but there was some confusion from what I heard. My understanding is that the bill was amended to ban carcinogens and repro toxins that are banned in EU from cosmetics that also show up on four authoritative body lists (IARC, NTP, EPA, NIOSH) -- this is not many chemicals that are actually used in cosmetics. Also to clarify, this bill was not a bill of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which is why we have not written much on it.

    Re: the Compact signer meetings. I have been there in past but was not at the one you mention. I agree with you that Skin Deep should not ding botanicals, many of us have made this case to EWG to no avail (yet) -- the Compact signer meetings are still the best place to have that discussion. I will pass along your good point that more dialogue and less presentation would be better. Re: requiring Compact signers to upload products, I do think that's necessary because how else could compliance be checked? We do get many complaints about Compact signers that are not compliant (ie, they have EU-banned ingredients, or do not include all the ingredients that are supposed to be listed on labels).

    My view on Skin Deep is that it is not a perfect system and never can be, because of what it is trying to do -- analyze an entire industry based on available data, which is very limited due to the historic lack of safety regulations for chemicals. Still, it is a resource that is getting five million searches a month, and has helped educate countless people about the much greater toxicity and lack-of-data problems of the conventional cosmetics.

    I do think there is a lot of common ground, although there are things we may not agree on and may not be able to accomplish entirely (since Skin Deep is run by EWG, not the campaign). But we are very committed to supporting small, independent businesses, which I happen to think are very important to the future of life on the planet!

    Donna, please also feel free to get in touch with me at stacy [at] safecosmetics [dot] org.

  10. Thank you Stacy. It's so wonderful to hear that the co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics thinks "there is a lot of common ground." I really appreciate you sharing your views on Skin Deep.

    I hope we can all work together and am pleased to hear you support the small, indep biz owners. With the way things are set up right now in Skin Deep, we stand to get hurt just as much if not more than the big guys. The rating system levels (as explained at the CFSC annual meeting last March) made it unattainable for "the small guy" to get the highest ranking in the Skin Deep database. Especially if we use any proprietary ingredients in our formulas, like essential oil blends or wine extracts I use in my formulations.

    What a huge disappointment that was to hear. I've put blood, sweat and tears into building and developing my natural personal care company because I believe with all my heart (and of course, research) it's the right thing to do. I left a tenured, well paying job to grow my biz. My biz is like my child, and I'm going to do everything I possibly can to protect it; just as many parents will not take the risk of using certain shampoos on their baby's head.

    I hope we can work together to bring the truth to consumers. Thank you for your comments and I truly hope you and Donna Maria can get in touch. Donna Maria is an amazing woman who has done so much to help indie biz owners bring some of the most natural, pure personal care products to the marketplace.

    Thanks again for your comments and willingness to work together.

  11. please also check out the many other blogs that have reported on this issue in today's post: A Little Fish in the Big Sea http://bit.ly/bCyhAs

    Thanks for all your comments, tweets and caring about truly safe personal care, based on scientific research


  12. Excellent blog post and commendable for Stacy to come on and espouse her team's viewpoint.

    I was very concerned about the bill, as it was written, as well. The overall idea about the bill came from a good place but the actual bill (citizens policing etc...) wasn't the best way to go about protecting consumers.

    Ultimately, consumers can vote with their pocket books. If they would like a 100% all natural alternative, there are those products on the shelves today. If they would like a product that has fragrance oil and preservatives in it, they can buy that as well. We cannot legislate safety into all areas of our lives, try as we might. There is some onus of responsibility on the part of the consumer to educate and choose based on their research.

  13. Well said Anne Marie. We don't have a similar system to CFSC in place for the food we ingest, why should we for cosmetics? It's the consumer's choice, responsibility and RIGHT to educate themselves without being persuaded by incomplete science influencing state governments.


  14. Our small personal care products company is USDA certified organic and every product that we make is USDA certified. I, too, attended most of the Compact meetings in California and Maryland for 3-4 years. I commented at every meeting about inconsistencies with the Skin Deep rating system and, finally, stopped attending meetings because our concerns were not addressed.

    One problem that we brought up at nearly every meeting is that, for example, a conventional industrially-produced synthetic detergent or emollient or other ingredient can (and does) score a ZERO rating within Skin Deep because the Skin Deep system does not look deeply enough at the environmentally-polluting and toxic chemical-intensive manufacturing processes that are used to manufacture too many synthetic personal care ingredients. We believe that this method of rating ingredients -- not investigating processing/manufacturing methods of synthetic chemical ingredients -- is illogical in view of the CFSC's stated objective. When attempting to rank products for their health impacts, we, and our intelligent organic-minded customers, believe that it is of extreme importance to consider the industrial processing of personal care ingredients (for their oft hidden, behind-the-scenes problems, their energy-intensiveness/fossil-fuel usage, and their negative downstream effects) and the real potential for unnatural toxic contaminant residues in the final ingredients as a result of their chemical processing. The recently exposed, controversial ethoxylation ingredient processing issue with its resulting 1,4 dioxane contamination problem is just one of many potential industrial processing concerns.

    In addition, it troubles us that USDA certified organic finished products are not rewarded with higher rankings than conventional mass-produced synthetic products within Skin Deep. It is significant that a genuine USDA organic certified product that bears the USDA certified organic seal has complied with the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations as the NOP stipulates that ingredients AND, importantly, that ingredient processing methods meet the strict environmental guidelines as detailed in our national organic law.

    Lastly, we can't help but to wonder who stands to benefit from legislative maneuvers that seem designed to over-regulate small personal care micro-businesses to death...

  15. Diana, thank you so much for sharing your experience with CFSC. It's time for us all to speak up!

  16. "Lastly, we can't help but to wonder who stands to benefit from legislative maneuvers that seem designed to over-regulate small personal care micro-businesses to death..."

    I have said it many times before and I will keep saying it: Follow the money. Find it, back trace it; See just whom or what companies it comes from. Yes, EWG and CFSC get donations, but who from? I realize they get a lot of small donations from innocent people and small companies, but how do they get their large funding to do all these research projects they claim to have commissioned? Follow the money.