MRA Sits Down With Verena Ottley
MRA Advisory Group sat down with Verena Ottley. Here’s what we learned:
Verena has worked in healthcare for over 25 years and became interested in safer ingredients for personal care products a few years ago. Following a discussion with an old school friend and lots of research, Verena made a move into using safer, cleaner beauty products and now works part-time for the company that sparked her curiosity.
Have you always been involved in the beauty industry?
No, not at all. I started my career as a nurse and now work full time in healthcare education so, in my daily life, safety and efficacy have always been front and center for me.
I first heard about Beautycounter during an interesting conversation with an old friend and was fascinated by the company’s mission. In our conversation, we talked about the fact that people are generally more interested in their health and well-being than ever before. We’ve both noticed that the organic produce section of our local grocery stores has grown in the last couple of years and that people pay more attention to food labels than they did previously. More and more people think carefully about what they put into their mouths and where their food comes from. This is certainly true for me and my family, but then she asked me if I ever think about the ingredients that go into our personal care products. The skin is the largest organ in our bodies; why wouldn’t we scrutinize what goes into our soap, shampoo, and make-up? After all, what goes on our skin can be absorbed into our bodies. That was a wake-up call for me, and after doing more research, it became clear that Beautycounter was a good fit for me, for my clinical background and because health, well-being, and safety are topics about which I am passionate.
When you started researching different ingredients in everyday products, what did you learn?
I found out it is perfectly legal for companies to use potentially harmful ingredients in the products we use on our skin every single day. I learned that some of these ingredients have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, infertility, and other health issues. Having grown up in the UK, I am aware that the rules vary country by country, and that the beauty industry is more closely regulated outside the U.S. For example, the European Union currently prohibits the use of more than 1400 ingredients in personal care products while the USA has banned or restricted only 30.
At the same time, my own skin was breaking out, looked red and blotchy, and I wasn’t sure why. So, I started to seek alternatives as I thought it may be the ingredients in my skin care products causing my issues. As it turned out, they were. My skin improved dramatically when I cleaned up my lotions.
It wasn’t just face creams that caught my attention. One of my biggest surprises was learning about the ingredients in sunscreen. The summer months are coming up and many of us slather ourselves and our children to protect our skin against UV rays. Some products on the market use octinoxate or oxybenzone which may also be labeled as benzophenone-3 and octyl methoxycinnamate. Researchers found these ingredients cause major issues for marine life, including coral bleaching, deformities, DNA damage, and coral death, when sunscreen washes off beachgoers. Other countries have already taken action to protect their marine life. Here in the U.S, we are just beginning. Starting in 2021 Hawaii and Key West will ban the sale and distribution of any sunscreen containing octinoxate and oxybenzone because of damage to local coral reefs. Some dermatologists have opposed the ban of these ingredients as skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the USA and there are concerns that restricting sunscreen ingredients could cause higher rates of skin cancer. More research is necessary but it would be great to have more eco-friendly products that also protect against sun damage.
So, who oversees the beauty industry in the U.S.?
The beauty industry in the U.S. is virtually unregulated and lags behind other countries. This is one of the reasons I decided to join Beautycounter. We create and distribute safer, high-performing products, and we stand behind our products and are willing to lobby decision-makers to require all companies to use safer ingredients. Our products do not compromise on either performance or safety. We make clean cosmetics and skin care products for men, women, and children, and I echo their mission of trying to get safer products into the hands of everyone.
If interested, where can people find out more information?
As I mentioned I did some research and found some helpful resources. Just because something is labeled “Natural”, “Herbal”, or “Organic” does not mean it is good for you. The “Skin Deep” database on the Environmental Working Group website (www.ewg.org/skindeep) is helpful as you can see how the products you use every day measure up. If your product is in the database, you can see how it scores – the lower the score the better. If anyone has questions or is curious to learn more about Beautycounter and our products, please drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to visit my personal website:www.beautycounter.com/verenaottley