Would you buy a pretty bottle of perfume if you were promised that part of your purchase price would go to a well-known cancer organization, supposedly dedicated to helping find a cure for breast cancer? If you or someone in your life has been touched by cancer, you may be tempted to do so.
I’m here to warn you to be careful.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, founded by Nancy G. Brinker, has done a lot to raise awareness about breast cancer over the years. I’ve admired their dedication to fund-raising activities and to getting helpful information out to the newly diagnosed. Their recent money-raising endeavor, however, severely disappoints me.
Recently, the organization teamed up with consumer products and distribution company TPR Holdings LLC to develop and launch a new product line called “Promise Me,” a proprietary fragrance. The website calls it “the scent of inspiration,” and offers a floral fragrance, a lighter combination fragrance, and two gift sets that include perfume, body wash, shower gel, body lotion, and even a keepsake bracelet. With each of the gift sets you get a free copy of the book Promise Me, which tells the story of the two sisters on which the “non-profit” organization was founded.
This all sounds great at first blush, but there are a few things going on here that steal a bit of the sheen from the glass bottle. First, these products are not cheap. We’re talking $59 for one bottle of perfume, $65 for one of the gift sets. Now I don’t have access to the company’s ledger sheets, but I do know Komen is getting only 13.5 percent of the proceeds. Thirteen-and-a-half percent of $59 is $7.97. Not a lot. Then you have to consider that a good chunk of that money goes to the organization’s expenses (uneasypink.com estimates 90 percent!), so that leaves even less going to research. Not much of a bargain for those more interested in finding a cure for breast cancer than in trying a new fragrance.
Here’s what upsets me the most. This is perfume. Not organic fragrance. Not something safe for those touched by cancer (or anyone, really). Not something nice for people going through chemotherapy who often become very chemically sensitive. Regular good-old chemical-based fragrance. It’s supposed to evoke positive energy, hope, and love, but what I’m afraid of is it will evoke more toxic overload in those unfortunate bodies assaulted with it.
The website lists top notes of mandarin, bergamot, and blood orange, and mid notes of pink peony, rosewood, and wild orchid. All lovely sounding, but let’s look at the ingredient list. The Promise Me website doesn’t list it, but fortunately the HSN shopping page does:
Alcohol Denat. (SD Alcohol 40-B), Parfum (Fragrance), Aqua (Water), Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Limonene, Benzophenone-3, Citonellol, Benzyl Salicylate, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Coumarin, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Linalool, Citral, Ci 17200 (Red 33), Ci 60730 (Violet 2).
Doesn’t sound so pretty, does it? Kim Irish at Think Before You Pink points out that coumarin is rated a moderate hazard on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database, with limited evidence of carcinogenic activity in animal studies. Benzyl salicylate is classified as toxic to aquatic environments. Benzophenone-3, or oxybenzone as it’s otherwise known, can increase photosensitivity, create free radicals in the skin that can attack DNA, and has been linked to eczema. It’s known to penetrate the skin and accumulate in the body, and some studies have linked oxybenzone in sunscreens to a possible increased risk of malignant skin cancer. Butylphenyl methylpropional has been shown to cause irritation and allergic reactions in many people.
This is enough to make me just shake my head. Why would an organization as large and visible as Komen put out a perfume like this, with potential carcinogens, dyes, and let’s not forget the mysterious “fragrance” item, which of course could hide all sorts of additional potentially toxic chemicals protected by trade secret. Maybe selling safe, enjoyable products for money that goes toward genuine cancer research could be a good idea, but this product isn’t safe, and very little money is going to research.
What do you think of this latest move by Susan Komen for the Cure? Please share your thoughts.