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It’s 10 a.m. in Washington, D.C., and 100 saleswomen from skincare and cosmetics brand Beautycounter have gathered on the steps of Capitol Hill.
They’re in their finest pantsuits and shift dresses, makeup flawless, game faces on. They’re girding for a long day of lobbying members of Congress for laws to keep harmful chemicals out of the soaps, shampoos, lotions, and makeup Americans slather on their bodies every single day.
A few hours later, in the offices of Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), 10 of them are sitting around a conference table to speak with the lawmaker’s legislative assistant. Among them is Jude Rollins, a Beautycounter salesperson (or consultant, in the parlance of the brand), who is in her 50s and lives in the Chicago suburbs. Although soft-spoken and out of her element, she nonetheless believes in the mission. It’s personal.
A decade ago, Rollins was diagnosed with breast cancer. It came as a shock because there was no family history of it and she had no known risk factors. “I exercised, I ate healthily, I don’t have any relatives with cancer,” she says. “The day my doctor called me, I remember he said, ‘I can’t believe I am telling you this right now’.”
The days after her diagnosis were a blow as Rollins set about learning about the carcinogens in her environment, trying to understand what might have triggered the tumor. That’s when she discovered how many harmful ingredients could be found in the seemingly innocuous bottles in her shower and makeup drawer. Formaldehyde, for instance, which is commonly used as a preservative in cosmetics, has been linked to cancer. Coal tar, which is used as a colorant and an anti-dandruff agent, is a known carcinogen. The list went on and on.
Read more about the fight against harmful beauty products by Elizabeth Segran at Fast Company