Stop Putting Chemicals On Your Body (Reforming the Cosmetics Industry and Leading the Clean Beauty Movement) – Gregg Renfrew on The Rich Roll Podcast

Check Out Rich Roll Podcast Podcast Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Many skincare and cosmetic products are filled with toxic chemicals, but the adverse side effects of exposure may not present themselves for quite some time.
    • To limit chemical exposure, shop for fragrance-free products—fragrances contain the worst of these chemicals.
  • “One and a half pages of legislation that govern an $80 billion dollar industry still allows for chemicals of concern that are known to cause cancer, have a direct link to endocrine disruption, and cause neurotoxicity—those chemicals are in our products and the government has not taken action” – Gregg Renfrew
  • “Less than 10% of the 85,000 chemicals introduced into commerce have been tested for safety, and about 10,000 of those are commonly used in personal care products” Gregg Renfrew
  • Your skin is your largest organ—remember that when picking your next lotion or sunscreen

Intro

The Early Years

  • Gregg’s first work experience? Cleaning houses in college
  • After she graduated, her mother gave her a suitcase along with a check for $5k and told her to go out and see the world 
  • Gregg’s first “real job” was working as an account manager for an ad agency, making $19k/year
    • She next worked for Xerox as a salesperson
  • Gregg got married at 24, but the marriage only lasted for 5 months
    • Seeing that a lot of her friends were also getting married, Gregg started selling bridesmaids dresses as a side-hustle
  • Gregg later went on to launch own company in the wedding industry—The Wedding List, which was acquired by Martha Stewart, who became her boss, in 2001
    • Martha wasn’t the best person to work for: “The way in which she led people, which was really a fear-based leadership model, to me, was something I definitely learned I didn’t want to replicate because she was just ruthless. She’s incredibly talented, but she’s also ruthless.” – Gregg Renfrew

The Inspiration for BeautyCounter

  • Gregg was significantly influenced by the documentary, An Inconvenient Truth
    • She realized: “The things that I was doing were wreaking havoc on the Earth”
      • This led Gregg to start focusing more on the environmental health movement, leading her to make some big changes in her personal life
  • One day, after washing her kids with a natural oatmeal body wash, Gregg looked up its ingredients on the Environmental Working Group SkinDeep Database
    • “I took a look at and I said, ‘Holy shit!’ It was rated eight out of nine for toxicity!” – Gregg Renfrew
  • Digging further, Gregg couldn’t locate any skincare cosmetics without harmful chemicals—this gap in the market inspired her to create BeautyCounter
    • “I cared so deeply about this issue that I was determined to take it all the way” – Gregg Renfrew

The Cosmetic Industry Needs Reform

  • If you eat junk food, you’ll likely feel like sh** immediately afterward, realizing it’s something you should probably limit. Many skincare products, however, are filled with chemicals, but the adverse side effects of exposure may not present themselves for quite some time.
  • The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has the power to recall food products that have the potential to harm consumers, but the same can’t be said for skincare and cosmetic products
  • There are several problems with the FDA:
    • “First and foremost, we’re not screening chemicals for safety before we put them into the products that we use” – Gregg Renfrew
      • “Less than 10% of the 85,000 chemicals introduced into commerce have been tested for safety, and about 10,000 of those are commonly used in personal care products”
    • There’s a lack of regulation: People can claim their products are natural, pure, and botanical without any certification or testing
  • “One and a half pages of legislation that govern an $80 billion dollar industry still allows for chemicals of concern that are known to cause cancer, have a direct link to endocrine disruption, and cause neurotoxicity—those chemicals are in our products and the government has not taken action” – Gregg Renfrew
    • Many of the laws concerning skincare and cosmetic products haven’t been updated since 1938
      • The EU (European Union) has banned or restricted ~1,400 chemicals used in cosmetic products. The U.S. has only banned or restricted 30 chemicals—our country is in desperate of cosmetic reform.

Stop Buying Chemical Cosmetics 

  • Less than 20% of Americans know that there are chemicals to be concerned about in beauty products 
    • Plus: People aren’t thinking about the chemicals in a product when they go shopping—they’re more focused on looking younger/better
  • If you’re going to shop for cosmetics or skincare products, at least shop for fragrance-free products: ”So many of the most offensive chemicals are found in the fragrances, so just go for a fragrance free-line” – Gregg Renfrew
    • Avoid parabens
    • Avoid EDTA 
    • For a full list of chemicals to avoid, read BeatyCounter’s Never List
  • And it isn’t just you these chemicals harm:
    • Chemical-heavy spray sunscreens harm coral reefs
    • Cosmetics with chemicals pollute the waterways
  • It’s not easy for a beauty brand to simply switch out chemical ingredients with organic ones—it would be like trying to make Coca-Cola organic and without chemicals
  • Avoid buying products with mica: ”Most of the mica is being mined with illegal, forced, or child labor in India, Japan, and China” – Gregg Renfrew

Clean Beauty is the Future

  • Gregg’s company isn’t perfect, but they’re making a ton of progress when it comes to using safe ingredients 
    • For example, some of their products have preservatives, a known toxin, but they also stop mold and bacteria from growing on your skin
  • “Clean beauty is the future. It’s the here and the now and the forever.” Gregg Renfrew

Beautycounter’s Distribution Model

  • Instead of distributing their products through traditional retail stores, Beautycounter uses over 45,000 independent consultants to educate and sell their products
    • To build a movement around changing the cosmetics industry, Gregg knew she needed people across the nation who believed in her mission, so who better than women and moms to spread the word?
    • Many of BeautyCounter’s first independent consultants were Gregg’s friends and family members
  • “We really wanted to create a consumer-facing brand that was focused on the solution, powered by people” – Gregg Renfrew 

On Being a CEO & Advice to Entrepreneurs

  • It’s possible to be a great mom, wife, and businesswomen
  • Being the CEO of a big company can certainly be lonely 
    • “If you’re at the top of an organization, who are you turning to?” – Gregg Renfrew
      • “I think most CEOs are really sensitive and really insecure, but people don’t realize that because they project confidence—that’s not how they’re feeling inside a lot of the time”
  • Gregg says managing others is the hardest part of running a company
  • “I think it’s true of everyone that you genuinely have everything that you need to be an enormous success; it just takes a lot of hard work. That ‘overnight success’ is like 10 years of gong 24/7.”Gregg Renfrew
  • Advice to entrepreneurs: Know your strengths and weaknesses; find people who can cover your weak spots

Additional Notes

  • “I’m not driven by money at all, but I am driven by the desire of not having to worry about money ever again, which, to me, is a big difference” – Gregg Renfrew
  • People are craving authenticity
    • They may or may not like what you have to say, but as long as you’re truthful, they’ll respect you
  • More and more people are looking for jobs where their work has a positive impact on the world
  • Your skin is your largest organ—remember that when picking your next lotion or sunscreen

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