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Campaign Victories & History

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics grew out of concerns about phthalates, a set of industrial chemicals linked to birth defects and reproductive harm. It has since evolved to include many other chemicals of concern found in personal care products. The Campaign uses a science-based foundation and an engaged public to push companies to make safer products, and to convince the government to pass laws that protect our health

Together with nearly 150 endorsing organizations, we've made huge strides toward safer products since the Campaign's official launch in 2004:


The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013, a bill supported by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, is introduced in Congress in March. Written to eliminate chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems from the products women, men and children put on their bodies every day, the law also protects workers from toxic chemicals in cosmetics.


The Campaign announced in the report Market Shift that 322 cosmetics companies met the goals of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, the Campaign’s voluntary pledge to avoid chemicals banned by health agencies outside the U.S. and to fully disclose product ingredients – a pioneering practice in the cosmetics industry. An additional 110 companies made significant progress toward those goals.

In response to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics report, Baby's Tub is Still Toxic, Johnson & Johnson released a statement saying it is phasing out formaldehyde-releasing chemicals from its baby products worldwide.

Major companies, including L'Oreal and Johnson & Johnson, now have either phased out or have policies against the use of the toxic pesticide triclosan in their products.

According to industry analysts, since 2007 the fastest-growing segment of the beauty industry has been natural and organic cosmetics and personal care products. This trend has held even through the recession, and is due largely to rising consumer concern about hazardous chemicals in cosmetics.

After six years and more than 1,500 company signatures, the Campaign announces in January that the Compact for Safe Cosmetics will sunset in June 2011. The Compact, a voluntary pledge to remove chemicals linked to adverse health impacts from personal care products and replace them with safe alternatives, helped push the market toward safe and healthy beauty products. The Safe Cosmetics Business Network has opened in its place.


The California Attorney General sues makers of Brazilian Blowout hair straightening products under the 2005 California Safe Cosmetics Act, a law authored by Campaign coalition leaders, after Oregon OSHA finds formaldehyde in the products. It's the first time the law is used to get unsafe products off the market.

"Stop the Spray!" We team up with Teens Turning Green in the fall to tell Abercrombie & Fitch to stop dousing customers and merchandise with "Fierce," a cologne with ingredients linked to sperm damage and asthma.

The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, a bill supported by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, is introduced in Congress in July. Written to eliminate chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems from the products women, men and children put on their bodies every day, the law also protects workers from toxic chemicals in cosmetics.

Half a million views. That's how many times The Story of Cosmetics is watched in 2010 following its July release. The 8-minute video from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and The Story of Stuff Project tells the ugly truth about the cosmetics industry – and ways we can give the beauty industry a much-needed makeover.

Our May "Not So Sexy" report reveals that top-selling fragrance products – including Glow by JLO, Calvin Klein Eternity and Old Spice body spray – contain allergens and hormone-disrupting chemicals, many of which are not listed on ingredient labels and most of which have not been assessed for safety by either the beauty industry or the FDA.


The Campaign releases "Pretty Scary," a Halloween report that reveals some children's face paints are contaminated with lead, a neurotoxin, as well as nickel, cobalt and chromium, which can cause lifelong skin sensitization and contact dermatitis.

Our partners at EWG expand the Skin Deep database to include more than 52,000 products and close to 9,000 ingredients. Skin Deep also now lists companies that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics and tracks their progress in meeting this pledge of safety and transparency. 

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics staff meet with elected officials and the FDA to discuss the public's growing concern about unnecessary exposure to toxic chemicals in personal care products.

Following the "No More Toxic Tub" report release, which included tests of Johnson's Baby Shampoo, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in May sends Johnson & Johnson a letter signed by 50 groups representing more than 2 million members. The letter asks the company to reformulate their iconic baby shampoo and other products to remove hazardous chemicals. After receiving more than 6,000 consumer letters and our sign-on letter, the company agrees to meet with the Campaign to discuss our concerns. Throughout this dialog, we urge J&J to become an industry leader in product safety and transparency.

In March 2009, the Campaign releases "No More Toxic Tub: Getting Contaminants Out of Children's Bath and Personal Care Products" with our allies in 13 states. We tested dozens of top-selling children's bath products and found many to be contaminated with the cancer-causing chemicals formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane. More than 1,000 media outlets across the globe cover the story, which prompts international government action and a bill in the U.S. Senate authored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).


Product testing, a follow-up to the 2002 "Not Too Pretty" report, reveals that some leading manufacturers are using fewer phthalates in 2008. Results of the 2008 testing are released in the report, "A Little Prettier." This positive step for consumer health is due to activist pressure from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and to policy changes in the EU and the U.S. However, some companies are still using high levels of phthalates, and none of the manufacturers of products tested admit that they've reformulated to remove the chemicals.

The list of signers of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics surpasses 1,000 companies, four times the original outreach list. The Campaign assists Compact-signing companies as they work toward Compact compliance, transparency and strong standards for safe personal care products.

CVS pharmacy starts taking steps toward creating standards for cosmetics carried in the chain's stores.

The Campaign initiates work with retailers, beginning with advising Whole Foods Market on their Premium Body Care seal.

Nine states consider legislation to ban toxic chemicals from personal care products, reflecting a nationwide movement to create new policies that protect our health. The Campaign works toward federal reform of cosmetics regulations, so that all products on the shelves, sold anywhere in the country, will be safe for our health.


Mass-market retailers like Target, CVS and Walgreens jump on the natural and organic bandwagon as consumers become more aware of the dangers of some synthetic chemicals.

Due to growing health concerns about chemical exposures, demand for natural and non-toxic products becomes the fastest growing segment of the personal care products market.

New Society Publishers releases Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, by Stacy Malkan. The award-winning book chronicles the history and victories of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Malkan, who helped found the campaign in 2002, travels the U.S. on a book tour.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tests 33 lipsticks for lead and proves the urban myth true: lead is found in two-thirds of the samples.The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics releases the results of independent lab testing, which found a cancer-causing chemical called 1,4-dioxane in children’s bath products. The chemical, a petroleum byproduct, is not listed on product labels.


Nail polish manufacturers, including global salon polish leader OPI, Orly and Sally Hansen, remove three of the most toxic chemicals (the "toxic trio") from nail polish  – formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate – due to pressure from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. 


With leadership from the Breast Cancer Fund, Breast Cancer Action, National Environmental Trust and Teens for Safe Cosmetics, the California Safe Cosmetics Act is signed into law. The Act requires cosmetics companies to report publicly their use of chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects.


In response to the Campaign's letter request, some major mainstream companies, including L'Oreal and Revlon, agree to remove chemicals banned in Europe from cosmetics sold in the United States and elsewhere around the world.

A letter signed by more than 50 environmental, women’s and health groups is mailed to 250 leading cosmetics companies, asking them to remove phthalates and sign the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, a pledge to replace all hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives. Within one year, 100 companies sign the Compact; within two years, 300 companies sign – though most major companies originally targeted do not.

Campaign partner the Environmental Working group launches Skin Deep, the world’s largest database of chemicals in personal care products. This innovative online tool matches the ingredients listed on personal care products with 50 toxicity databases to determine safety ratings and data gaps for each product, brand or company. The database currently attracts 5 million searches per month as consumers use it to shop for safer alternatives and companies use it to assess their products.

Widespread concern and growing questions about the safety of personal care products lead to the creation of a national coalition of environmental, health and women’s groups called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, led by the Breast Cancer Fund.


The European Union bans 1,100 toxic chemicals from personal care products, including some phthalates used in nail polish and other products, under the EU Cosmetics Directive. In contrast, the United States sticks to its existing ban on only 11 chemicals. Some products sold in the U.S. still contain chemicals banned in Europe even though safer alternatives are available.


EWG, Health Care Without Harm and Women’s Voices for the Earth test a wide range of personal care products and find phthalates in more than 70 percent of the products, including shampoos, deodorants, hair gels and fragrance. None of the products list phthalates on the label. They release results in a groundbreaking report, "Not Too Pretty."


Environmental Working Group reports that many nail polishes contain phthalates. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that women of childbearing age have higher levels of phthalates in their bodies than other segments of the population.

Researchers begin looking at cosmetics as a possible source of phthalate exposure.

What You Can Do

Individuals: Join us in our ongoing efforts to give the beauty industry a makeover!

Nonprofits: Endorse the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

Retailers and beauty professionals: Sign on as a business supporter