More questions than answers on “Promise Me”

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By Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director, Breast Cancer Action

Two days after Breast Cancer Action publicly announced the findings of independent lab testing of Komen’s commissioned perfume Promise Me, we want to thank BCAction members and supporters who have sent almost 1,200 letters to Komen urging them to recall the product.

Instead of directly addressing consumer concerns about the ingredients in the perfume, Komen has responded to our action with more talk; but for all their explanations, they have yet to address any of our concerns.

Komen said they will not recall the product nor will they assure us that they will take the highest standards of precaution when it comes to women’s health. They did, however, talk:

  • about the money the perfume will raise, noting a minimum of $1M to be donated by TPR Holdings;
  • about the burden of responsibility for health safety resting with “intelligent consumers who make informed decisions about the use of products based on evidence;”
  • about  how much they care about research and prevention;
  • about their intention to continue selling Promise Me.

Komen’s talk poses more questions than it answers:

  • In highlighting the money raised by the perfume, is Komen suggesting that regardless of any health risks, the ends justify the means?
  • How can consumers make informed decisions about Promise Me when Komen hasn’t publicly disclosed the list of ingredients on the product label?
  • Is Komen really suggesting “buyer beware” by putting the burden on “intelligent consumers” to make “informed decisions”?
  • How can Komen’s Medical and Scientific Affairs team conclude that it is okay to include Toluene in Promise Me when the International Fragrance Association bans its use?
  • The FDA has notorious loopholes in its regulatory policies. In citing FDA guidelines as a resource on the safety of cosmetics and fragrance, is Komen unaware of the work by several national breast cancer organizations, many working in coalition with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, to close these gaping regulatory holes? (Check out their terrific “Not So Sexy” report for more information about the health risks of chemicals in fragrance.)
  • If Komen is committed to funding research on causes and prevention of breast cancer, why do they allocate less than 4% of the $1.9 billion (yes, billion) they have raised to these areas?
  • Komen says they are reformulating the perfume to be “sensitive to concerns” about the perfume’s ingredients. Unfortunately, “reformulate” does not necessarily mean “safe” (the notorious cancer-causing pesticide methyl iodide, in use as I type this, was a replacement for the ozone-depleting methyl bromide.) Does Komen also intend to adopt the highest standards of precaution when it comes to women’s health to ensure the “reformulated” perfume is not as bad as the one currently on shelves and in homes?
  • And finally, if Komen cares deeply about women’s health, about the prevention and cause of breast cancer, why won’t they commit to taking every precaution to ensure that the products they sell and endorse are safe by signing the Pledge to Prevent Pinkwashing?

Komen is asking women to trust their good intentions. In essence, Komen is asking us to look at what they say, not at what they do. To which we can only reply: Action speaks louder than pink. Komen talks a good line about “ending breast cancer” and ”funding research on prevention.” Komen has an opportunity to talk less and act more: recall Promise Me and sign the Pledge to Prevent Pinkwashing. It’s that simple.


  1. Amy
    Posted September 28, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    This is an interesting article. It only furthers my resolve to have nothing to do with supporting Komen. I would love to see an end to breast cancer, but I’ll still with the American Cancer Society. The Komen organization is far from what they claim to be.

  2. Posted September 29, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I run the Pinkwashing Hall of Shame on Facebook. I’m also the Eco-Beauty Editor of I want to write about this. Can you tell me how you found out about the ingredients you mention in the video? Did you have the product tested? Maybe I should call you 🙂

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