Monday, August 15, 2005 at 12:21PM
California teens expose the ugly side of the beauty biz
Teenagers hate being lied to. So when some teen girls in Marin, California, learned they weren’t getting the whole story from the cosmetics industry, they made up their minds—instead of their faces—to form Safe Cosmetics Campaign: Marin, the first teen-led branch of the national organization. The Marin activist coalition, which now boasts over 50 girls, launched in January to educate consumers about harmful chemical cosmetic ingredients linked to cancer and birth defects while advocating for healthier alternatives that will keep their insides as beautiful as their outsides.
Sasha Hoffman, an 18-year-old who has worn her share of makeup, says, "I assumed that the FDA regulated and tested cosmetics.” She was surprised to learn, however, that they do not. "One company was caught saying that their products are ‘crap in a jar,’” says 15-year-old Jessica Assaf. “How do they sleep at night?”
Since January, the teens have spearheaded five major actions, including Operation Beauty Drop, a program that asked women to drop used cosmetic containers into bins around Marin. With those items, they created Safe Face, a five-foot-tall collage of a female face, with mascara tubes for eyelashes and shampoo bottles for hair. The collage travels locally to teach consumers about products to trust and to avoid. Members also lobbied for – and helped to pass – the California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005, which now requires cosmetic manufacturers to inform the State Department of Health Services of any ingredients in their products known or suspected of causing cancer or birth defects. “The kids who went to [lobby in] Sacramento came back feeling 10 feet tall,” says Safe Cosmetics Campaign director Judi Shils, who notes that the teens are already bursting with other ideas for future events. “We can travel with makeup artists and teach teens how to go organic,” imagines Hoffman. “Changing things overnight isn’t easy, but it’s possible.” To learn more about the campaign, and to see a list of conscientious companies who have signed the Compact With America Safe Cosmetics Pledge, check out http://www.safecosmetics.org/