When is pink really black? When it is a beauty product jumping on the National Breast Cancer Awareness month bandwagon. This admirable cause attracts a myriad brands that become awash in pink. Sadly, for many it is whitewashing and there are all too many faux pink beauty products out there this month. Despite their nod to breast cancer causes, they are actually formulating with harmful ingredients. Ironically, including those that are potentially carcinogenic.

I did a random sampling around the internet and here are just a few examples of faux pink offenders that I found. Take the oddly named Cure Sexy Tingling & Exfoliating Mud Mask by GlamGlow ($69). The most surprising thing (some might say shocking) is that this pink-clad “limited edition 10-minute facial in a jar” has no less than four parabens. These preservatives are associated with, of all things, breast cancer. It should always be noted that the research behind this is controversial, yet many cosmetic companies go out of their way to boast that they are paraben free. And that’s not all, GlamGlow has added phenoxyethanol, a potential neurotoxin, magnesium aluminum silicate (the third ingredient listed) is recommended in low concentrations because aluminum risks containing neurotoxins, and there’s diazolidinyl urea, which has the dubious honor of being on Dr Oz’s to be avoided list. 

Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisturizer ($38) looks as if it hasn’t changed in more than 30 years. It was horrible when I (not knowing better) bought it back in my 20s and it is still horrible. I have to commend Clinique for giving up a full $10 on every purchase for Breast Cancer Awareness, but this cannot sugar coat that Dramatically Different Moisturizer is over-priced mineral oil. Ok, so there’s sesame oil too. But that’s it – if you overlook petrolatum and, dear oh dear, parabens.

Never mind faux pink, Wunderlift 60-second Wrinkle Reducer ($59) could possibly be accused of faux anti-aging. Unless, that is, you really do regard cement as an essential in your anti-wrinkle arsenal. The instant gratification (tightening effect) of Wunderlift 60-Second Wrinkle Reducer is provided by sodium silicate. This is typically used in the manufacture of cars, passive fire protection and cement. Lovely. At least some of the proceeds of this mediocre formula are going the way of this month’s topical charities.

Truth In Aging’s pink picks

Some of the best cosmetic lines were born from their creators’ quest to find truly safe products when they were recovering from cancer. Some of my favorites not only make great beauty products, but their founders ensure that their companies project their values at every level.

CV Skinlabs: Britta Aragon, makeup artist and creator of CV SkinLabs, is a cancer survivor who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 16. She started CV Skinlabs to honor her father who died of colon cancer. Britta studied study “bio mimicry,” the use of nature’s recipes for skin repair and ensures all the ingredients in her line have been toxicologically reviewed. CV Skinlabs formulations are especially kind to those with sensitive skin, eczema prone or recovering from treatments such as chemo. Each product in the range is based on the Tri-Rescue Complex, combination of Reishi mushroom, bisabolol (from chamomile), and turmeric (an antioxidant). I can certainly vouch for CV Skinlabs Rescue + Relief Spray ($34) and CV Skinlabs Body Repair Lotion ($36) – having just gone through a bad bout of eczema, these were not only the sole lotions I was able to go anywhere near, but they dramatically speeded up my skin’s recovery time. Read our interview with Britta here.

RMS Beauty: Celebrity makeup artist Rose Marie Swift discovered her profession brought with it an occupational hazard when she became sick as a result of daily contact with the multiple toxins in color cosmetics. Spurred to launch her own line of makeup, Rose Marie focused on natural ingredients that, at the same time, would not compromise the professional results she was looking for. The RMS Beauty line focuses on clever multitaskers that include ingredients that are actually good for you. A case in point is RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek, which performs perfectly and RMS Beauty “Un” Cover Up Concealer, which has moringa extract, an ingredient that actually removes toxins. See our video interview of Rose Marie Swift.

Suntegrity: Tricia Trimble founded Suntegrity in honor of her mother who passed away from skin cancer. Every product comes with a reminder: “Suntegrity was made in honor of my Mom and all of those who lost their lives to skin cancer. May you use this product and smile in their memory.” Suntegrity takes a holistic approach to its sunscreens, which are jammed full of antioxidants that not only improve their effectiveness at sun protection, but have anti-aging benefits. They are super moisturizing and the Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer, Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($45 in the shop) is very cosmetically acceptable (no chalkiness). Read our interview with Tricia Trimble and check out the Suntegrity line.

Sweetsation: Happily, there is no cancer in Sweetsation’s backstory. Founder, Natalia, was pregnant when she began to become concerned about what she was putting on her skin and how it might affect her baby’s health. Sweetsation was born in 2008 and each ingredient has been researched and checked against the Cosmetic Safety Database. All ingredients are safe to use during pregnancy while delivering effective results. This means you won’t find retinols, but only safe skin brighteners in Lumi*Essence Body Organic Advanced Brightening Repair Treatment ($48 in the shop). Check out the Sweetsation line.

Also worth a call out are: S.W Basics, which formulates with no more than five ingredients in each product to ensure that they focus only on potent ingredients and even the most sensitive skins should be able to tolerate them. Check out the S.W Basics line; and it doesn't get simpler and safer than Hyalogics Episilk Pure Hyaluronic Serum ($59.95 in the shop) with sodium hyaluronate and water (that's it!) and Episilk Instant Facelift Serum ($39.95 in the shop). Read the Hyalogics reviews.