Want to know which retailers are naughty and which are nice when it
comes to their commitment to cosmetics safety? Who is leading the market
trend toward safer products and who’s lagging behind? Which stores
consumers should support with their dollars as they shop for non-toxic
stocking stuffers this holiday season and which should get coal? The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics just released a report today, 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.
Why rank retailers on cosmetics safety?
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
This report provides vital information to consumers, including which
retailers screen the products they sell for harmful chemicals; which
promote and expand the sale of safer alternatives; and which help
customers understand their store’s commitment to health and safety.
How did retailers do?
Taken directly from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics report:
- Whole Foods Market (Whole Foods)
is by far the leader, with proactive policies in place to screen out
more than 400 chemicals of concern from its premium products. It offers
an extensive range of safer alternatives and communicates its safety
commitments and progress clearly to the public.
- At the other end of the spectrum 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 Caremark (CVS)
leads the conventional retailers, having a publicly available policy on
its cosmetics safety standards, a wide range of safer alternatives in
many of its stores and a policy of phasing out chemicals of concern from
its CVS brand baby products.
- Walgreens does
not have a publicly available policy that addresses personal care
product safety, and safer alternatives are not consistently available in
its stores. The company did recently launch its own line of safer
products, which to date includes two baby bath products and a few adult
shampoos and conditioners. These products are screened to ensure they do
not contain certain chemicals of concern.
- Walmart has
invested considerably in setting up systems to identify chemicals of
concern in products it sells, but has not made progress in translating
that knowledge into not selling personal care products that contain
potentially harmful chemicals. It also lacks a commitment to do so in
the future. Additionally, shoppers found a limited selection of safer
- Target carries
a range of safer alternatives, but lacks a policy to address chemicals
of concern in the full range of personal care products it sells. Target
is currently determining what criteria would go into a personal care
- Costco Wholesale (Costco)
has eliminated the use of several chemicals in its signature brand, but
has done little else to screen the other cosmetics products it sells.
It also does not have a policy to address chemicals of concern in its
full range of personal care products and offers limited to no safer
- Kroger touts
its commitment to selling safer products, but shoppers had mixed
experiences with some not finding safer alternatives and one finding a
wide range but indicating that this section was a new addition in her
local store. Overall the company lacks a comprehensive policy to address
personal care product safety.
Our system is broken
Unfortunately, toxins are basically unregulated in this
country and can make their way into our homes and our cosmetics without
This needs to change. The law that was meant to protect us is now old
and outdated and isn’t doing its job. We still have cans with BPA linings on our shelves. Laundry detergents continue to contain cancer causing chemicals. Nursing pillows and car seats are doused in toxic flame retardants. Toxic chemicals are found in children’s jewelry. Early puberty, childhood cancer,
infertility, learning and developmental disabilities are rising at
alarming rates. There is no legislation in place to protect us.
Companies aren’t required to test the safety of the chemicals in their
products. This needs to stop.
What we can do
Shoppers shouldn’t have to be chemists to figure out how to avoid toxic ingredients in cosmetics. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics shares a few ways we can take action:
- Support smarter laws for safer products.
- Use fewer products with simpler ingredients.
- Read labels for information on product ingredients. Don’t rely on natural or organic claims.
- Find out what’s in your products and find safer alternatives by using Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database.
- Shop at retailers that are committed to safer personal care
products. In addition to the retailers featured in this report, many
natural food stores and coops sell safer products. The Organic Consumers Association compiled a national list of these stores.
What else can we do to fix our broken system? Were you surprised by the findings in the study?