OK, so I am about to have a coronary because I just saw the most cringeworthy ‘we only did it to SAVE you’ video clip from the champions of “SAFE AND LOVELY” the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. I almost don’t want to share it with you but that would just be selfish – come and take a dip in the toxic ocean by watching it here.

The Story Of Stuff is not all false but it is not even 1/3rd true either and that’s what bugs me. You have CHEMICALS in the BAD corner, poor helpless parent in the CONFUSED AND EXPLOITED corner and the campaign for safe cosmetics in the SUPER HERO corner – it is a triangle of doom based on moral panic and outrage.

If you can’t be bothered to watch the short cartoon (cartoons are great aren’t they, family viewing, innocent etc) then I will explain it in a nutshell here. The cosmetics industry (personified by (hope they sue) Proctor and Gamble) are filling up our bottles of baby shampoo and our lipstick twisties with toxic chemicals that will mutify our sperm (if we have any), give us breast cancer and make us feel sad.   This is an American film and so it goes on to say that the FDA is doing Sweet FA to save us and is basically allowing the industry to pollute and kill us while it counts the dollars.  After all, the industry is self-regulated and it can therefore choose the laws and then choose to ignore them. Nice!  Lastly the film tells us that thanks to the Campaign for Safe cosmetics we will all be safe as long as we log onto their website and ignore everyone else. COOL!

So why do I want to tip a giant vat of Pantene over these people’s heads and see them swim in it? Here we go….

  • The Environmental Working Group (nice name) and their friends the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (like we need them) act like a tabloid paper. They jump on the big headlines and don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. YES some of the ingredients used in cosmetics are irritating and dangerous for health if used in high enough volumes but that isn’t what happens in your average product.   Firstly it is about DOSE.
  • These guys LOVE to talk about LEAD in our lipsticks. Haven’t they been keeping up????  There is lead all over this 100% green and natural planet. Lead is probably in that lovely cauliflower that you are about to eat. The reason that there is a legal limit set for how much lead is in lipsticks is because we can now detect minute amounts, way below anything that would cause health problems. Lead is an environmental reality and this is just silly.  Secondly it is about being REALISTIC.
  • Then we have to think about where our cosmetics end up.  Our skin is very good at keeping things out, to give us cancer something has to be able not only to penetrate into the body but to remain in their. Yes we are full of chemicals, yes some get through and NO nobody wants that but much of what is found in our bodies comes from things such as paints, building materials, foods, air pollution from factories and cars and other industrial products.  That is not to say that we should think that everything is rosy with cosmetics as they could be cleaner but blaming cancer on cosmetics when we live in a chemical world is a little far-fetched. THIRD is about BIOACCUMULATION.
  • Next we have the bashing of the big boys. It is always fashionable to blame big companies about the state of the world and in many cases they have played their part in creating problems. While that is as true in cosmetics as it is for any industry – blaze the trail, note the consequenses and clean up – it doesn’t mean that the big boys are just sitting back and counting the money. More often that not the planet needs large companies to fund research into safer alternatives, fund testing and fund advertising to tell people about it. I don’t know a single company that isn’t taking safety seriously both large and small. It is easy for smaller, newer companies to take the moral high ground and bask in their greener status and bash the big players when it was the big guys that made most of it possible  FORTH is about RESPONSIBILITY.
  • Finally we have the environmental issue. It is also true that the cosmetics industry has promoted the use of more and more products by a more segmented consumer base over the years. This rampant consumerism is not helping with environmental issues and our sense of beauty and self. I am all for pushing sustainability but that big issue is glossed over in this cartoon in favour of the much sexier FEAR and CANCER angle. FIFTH is about SUSTAINABILITY.

In a nutshell.

Anyone that knows me will know that I am a campaigner for better cosmetics, for more traceability in the supply chain, for more sustainable products, for product that support real beauty and for products that don’t bio-accumulate.

BUT

I am also an advocate for scientific information reported in a fair, balanced and scientific way. YES some cosmetic ingredients should be addressed and replaced in favour of safer alternatives but NO your shampoo is probably not going to give you cancer.

I am also not a fan of this interpretation of the precautionary principle as should I apply it to my life I would lead a boring, un-caffinated, un-alcoholed, un-sexed (very dangerous that) and un-excited life.  

Fear is NOT a good way to sell ANYTHING. EVER. THANK YOU.

What do you think?