Gregg Renfrew: Making Beauty Safer

July 21 - On The Dot
It’s a great day to be a woman! Melinda Garvey here as your voice, with the mission to give women everywhere a place to be heard and tell their stories. We’d love to hear from you!

FIRST THOUGHT: The Good, the Bad and the Guilty Pleasures

When I was a kid, a typical hangout session with friends involved trying out different shades of lip gloss and stuffing our faces with Cheetos. Now that I’m a grown woman, I do this very adult thing called reading labels.

It’s time-consuming and frustrating, but it helps me figure out the good, the bad and the ugly in the products I use. Sometimes I say, “To heck with it! Cheetos are delicious,” but hey, at least I know what I’m getting myself into. What’s the thing that makes you say, “I know this is bad for me, but…”?


Today’s number is going to blow your mind. The European Union has banned or restricted 1,400 ingredients in beauty products because of evidence they’re harmful to humans. Pretty good, right?

Here’s the jaw-dropping number: Of those 1,400 ingredients, the United States has only banned 11. You heard that right: 11.

Do you know what’s in your makeup?

WOMAN TO WATCH: Gregg Renfrew, Founder and CEO of Beautycounter

That little number inspired today’s Woman to Watch to do something about it. Her name is Gregg Renfrew, and she’s changing the way we understand our beauty products. A serial entrepreneur, she sold her online bridal registry to Martha Stewart in 2001, and worked as the CEO of Tommy Hilfiger’s children’s brand, Best & Co. But she found her true passion in educating women about the beauty industry.

Renfrew started Beautycounter to bring transparency and safety to one of the biggest industries out there: beauty. One of my favorite things about this company is that it’s created a handy printable guide full of ingredients you should avoid when shopping because, if you’re like me, you’ll never remember the comically long word “methylisothiazolinone.”

Renfrew speaks from the perspective of a mother. Years ago, while applying sunscreen to her kids, she didn’t think much about the product, other than that she expected it to protect her kids from the sun’s harmful rays. Then she found out there are about 80,000 chemicals in beauty products, including skin-care items, on the market, and a lot of those go unchecked.

While Renfrew could find household products without these dangerous chemicals, it was tough to stock her medicine cabinet. So, she developed her own exfoliants and moisturizers. Now, Beautycounter sells everything from baby products to makeup.

Beautycounter sold 2 million products last year and is expected to sell between 5 and 6 million this year. Clearly, Renfrew’s mission is resonating with consumers. While customers can purchase Beautycounter products online and at J.Crew, the company sells a great deal through about 16,000 independent consultants, who host sales parties, which are far from the Avon methods of old, and include letter-writing campaigns to lawmakers and education on current research.

Renfrew works tirelessly to create tighter regulations on the industry, even lobbying Congress to prohibit companies from using harmful ingredients. Renfrew teaches us that it’s time to look beyond the shiny packaging of our beauty products and ask one really important question: What the heck is in this stuff?


Perhaps American writer, journalist and feminist Anne Roiphe spoke most wisely on the topic of beauty when she said:

“A woman whose smile is open and whose expression is glad has a kind of beauty, no matter what she wears.”

That’s all for now. Be sure to share this so more women can have a voice! Thanks for getting ready with us.

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