How Sephora Is Doubling Down on Their Chemical Policy

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Navigating store shelves to find the right skin-care and makeup products can be daunting. Multiply the “will it work,” anxiety with the fear that what you’re buying might actually be harmful for you and you have yourself the makings of a beauty buyer panic attack. Thankfully, the spotlight on clean ingredients is getting brighter and retailers are making our initial research much easier, like Sephora, who just announced its partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund to ensure that they have safer products on their shelves.

In a report released last week, Sephora, the first major beauty retailer to issue a chemicals policy,  is now evaluating how they’ve fared since making that commitment last year and how they plan to strengthen it by removing even more chemicals from their shelves. To get a breakdown of what this means for consumers, NewBeauty talked to Boma Brown-West , the Environmental Defense Fund’s senior manager of consumer health. 

“Our partnership with Sephora will help to eliminate harmful chemicals from products in order to protect consumer health and find safer alternatives,” says Brown-West . “Think about an average person’s daily routine. Women in particular on average use 16 products on their faces alone before leaving the house in the morning. The problem is, these products—which are then applied in large quantities directly on the skin—are often filled with chemicals like phthalates and formaldehyde releasers, which are linked to major diseases and disorders, like cancer, infertility and heart disease.”

One of Sephora’s goals includes reducing the number of what they call “high-priority chemicals” used in products by 50 percent in the next three years. “Sephora has a list of 49 high-priority chemicals identified for immediate action because these chemicals are of particular concern for their customers and/or for environmental and health organizations,” says Brown-West . “This list includes phthalates and parabens, both of which are potential endocrine disruptors.”

The retailer is also encouraging brands to replace those high-priority chemicals with alternative ingredients. “Removing harmful chemicals can have enormous impact, but not if the replacement is just as toxic as the original ingredient,” Brown-West explains. “Sephora is working with industry partners and suppliers to make sure that safer ingredients are used, and that its suppliers have access to them.” 

In an effort to increase transparency, the report also states that by year’s end they will have all of the ingredients for 100 percent of their formulated products listed on Sephora.com.

Currently, 87 brands now have the ‘Clean at Sephora’ seal, which is a 22 percent increase from the year prior, which Brown-West says is a positive step forward, but not nearly as important as their chemical policy: “Clean labeling programs help shoppers more easily find safer products, but they don’t address all the products in a store. That’s why a chemicals policy, like Sephora’s, is necessary. It signals to customers that the company is working to create a marketplace in which all products are made with the safest possible ingredients for both people and the planet.”

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