Retail Therapy

Press Release from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

SAN FRANCISCO –When it comes to their commitment to cosmetics safety, some retailers are naughty and some are nice; some lead the market trend toward safer products and some lag behind. To get to the bottom of which stores consumers should support with their dollars as they shop for non-toxic stocking stuffers and which should get coal, today the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released a report, Retailer Therapy: Ranking retailers on their commitment to cosmetics safety, putting a spotlight on Walmart, Target, Macy’s, CVS, Walgreens, Costco, Kroger and Whole Foods Market.

“Retailers that sell personal care products are the gatekeepers of safety for their customers,” said Janet Nudelman of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Breast Cancer Fund. “If the nation’s biggest retailers commit to stop selling cosmetics with toxic chemicals linked to disease, manufacturers who want to keep selling to those retailers will comply. There is a rich history of retailers using their purchasing power to effect positive market change. When retailers said no to BPA in baby bottles or to old-growth lumber, the market responded.”

Whole Foods Market is by far the leader, garnering nine out of a possible ten “kisses” in the ranking, because of its policy of screening out more than 400 chemicals of concern from its premium products; offering an extensive range of safer alternatives; and communicating its safety commitments and progress clearly to the public. At the other end of the spectrum, garnering only one kiss, is Macy’s, which stated that government regulations are adequate to address cosmetics safety and that it trusted its vendors to ensure the products the company sells are safe. The company has a very limited selection of safer alternatives, with some of its stores not offering any alternatives at all. CVS trailed Whole Foods with five kisses, followed by Walgreens and Target with four, and Walmart, Kroger and Costco with three.

The $50 billion personal care product industry in the United States is largely unregulated, meaning products you buy at your local retailer—from baby shampoo to lipstick to moisturizers—can contain chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, infertility and other chronic diseases.

This report provides vital information to consumers, including:

  • which retailers screen the personal care products they sell for harmful chemicals
  • which have addressed the safety of their private label brands
  • which promote and expand the sale of safer alternatives; and
  • which help customers understand their store’s commitment to health and safety.

The report reflects critical market trends, showing which retailers are responding to the growing demand for safer personal care products, the fastest growing segment of the cosmetics market, which is expected to top $11 billion by 2016, due to rising consumer concern about hazardous chemicals in cosmetics.

The Campaign collected data for the report through direct communication with the companies, searches of their websites and corporate responsibility reports, and in-store shopper surveys conducted by volunteers from organizations in Alaska, California, Connecticut,  Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

“The progress some retailers have made to stock safer products is encouraging,” said Erin Switalski of the Campaign and Women’s Voices for the Earth. “But we need regulations in place that put common-sense limits on toxic chemicals so that all women have access to safer products, whether they shop at Whole Foods or at dollar stores.”

“Shoppers shouldn’t have to be chemists to figure out how to avoid toxic ingredients in the cosmetics aisle,” said Cindy Luppi of the Campaign and Clean Water Action. “We hope this report will encourage retailers to ensure that every one of their customers has access to safe, affordable personal care products, particularly in low income communities of color where much work is needed.”

Read the report here.