It’s a chilly March morning in Washington, D.C, and just outside the steps of the Capitol Building, Gregg Renfrew is wearing a light navy puffer and New Balance sneakers while hopping up and down in order to stay warm. The founder and CEO of Beautycounter is huddled with staff, and around her, over 100 consultants from across the United States have joined them for a day of meetings to lobby for the Personal Care Products Safety Act, a bipartisan bill to reform the regulation of beauty products (cosmetic and otherwise) to ensure the safety of their ingredients. Once everyone is herded together for a group photo, Renfrew addresses them. “This is the reason I started the company,” she bellows.
That was in 2013. Renfrew wanted to create a beauty brand that made products that were high performing and safe. But she didn’t stop there; she made activism an integral part of the company and visited the Hill in D.C. the following year. “I didn’t feel the world needed another beauty brand per se,” she says. “What I felt it needed was a movement.”
And that’s the point of today in Washington. To date, major laws surrounding the regulation of beauty products in the United States have not been updated since 1938, restricting and banning only 30 ingredients. (In Canada, we’ve done that with around 600). Beautycounter, however, bans the use of 1,500 ingredients that it believes to be of concern. So Renfrew has brought her consultants to meet with the staff of the senators to lobby for support of the bill. “We know we’re making inroads,” she explains. “They may not agree on how we go about it, but I think everyone can agree that we need to protect our health.”
While we are ahead of the United States in terms of regulations, Renfrew believes “there’s still work to be done.” That includes the loophole that allows companies to not list ingredients if they fall under the category fragrance. “It keeps consumers in the dark about common allergens and hormone-disrupting chemicals,” explains Renfrew. The other issue is metals in cosmetics. Both are issues she’d like to see included in future Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) reviews.
Unlike other beauty brands that throw around the word “toxic,” Beautycounter steers clear of that rhetoric. “We talk about the ingredients that we choose to use,” she says. “That said, we do share information that can scare people because most assume that their government is protecting them.” But, above all, Renfrew believes that Beautycounter’s role is “to create higher performing, safer products, to educate the consumer, to advocate tirelessly and to change the industry and the world.”
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