As an industry expert supporting the ban of cancer-causing beauty ingredients, I must admit that Breast Cancer Awareness Month brings up a lot of mixed feelings for me. I’ve personally known far too many women who’ve had to fight bravely against breast cancer. So I get pretty passionate about products wielding the pink ribbon.

This October, buying products with the pink Breast Cancer Awareness ribbon represents a time for us to show our support in finding a cure. But are commercial products misleading us into thinking we’re helping?

What is Pink Washing?

With so much corporate support, it’s a wonder how we haven’t managed to find a way to get rid of breast cancer.

The truth? Big corporations have figured out that people have hearts. We’ll purchase a product if we think we’re helping in some way. It didn’t take long for marketing department think tanks to realize that the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon sells products.

But here’s the thing.

Companies that sell breast cancer awareness merchandise don’t actually have to donate to a breast cancer fund. And many of them don’t. That’s the definition of pink washing — putting a pink ribbon on products without contributing anything to a breast cancer awareness fund. As unethical and exploitative as pink washing may be, it isn’t illegal.


Okay, so companies are using the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon to tug on our heartstrings. But that’s not even the worst part. The knockout blow is that many of those same companies actually manufacture and sell products that contain ingredients that can cause cancer.

That’s right. Some of the breast cancer awareness merchandise that proudly displays the pink ribbon actually contains carcinogens.


In the last few years, Europe has regulated or banned over 1,000 ingredients that pose a health risk to humans. In the same time period, the Federal and Drug Administration in the United States has regulated or banned less than 50. That means that many American companies are still using cancer-causing chemicals, like laureth sulfates and glycols, even though those substances are banned in other countries.


This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Stay Safe!

Despite the pink washing that will go on this month, there are hundreds of legitimate breast cancer support groups that are working toward a cure.

The best way to contribute to breast cancer awareness to buy products from companies that are actually paying some of the profits toward the fight for a cure — and avoiding the ones that don’t.

So instead of empowering companies to exploit a cause, why don’t we all join together to force them to be more forthcoming about how much support they’re really giving. We have to demand misleading manufacturers to remove cancer-causing ingredients.

Let’s make October more than Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Let’s make sure these corporations are being held accountable. Email your favorite brands and ask them to stop using the breast cancer awareness ribbon without donating the proceeds and to stop using known carcinogens in their products.


Want more of the inside scoop on the beauty industry? Check out my podcast for interviews with beauty and health experts for helpful information the industry doesn’t want you to know.

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