Revlon did something revolutionary in 2020: the iconic beauty brand launched the first EWG-verified global beauty product in the form of its PhotoReady Prime Plus Perfecting + Smoothing Primer. If you're unfamiliar, the EWG stands for the Environmental Working Group, a national nonprofit that evaluates and rates personal care products based on ingredient safety and environmental effect--we like to think of them as the friendly neighborhood beauty truth sayers. Their whole goal is to help consumers make more informed decisions about their health, the environment and the products they buy; getting an EWG Verified "green" score on their SkinDeep database means the ingredients are lowest hazard, safe to use, and supported by scientific data. In other words, if a product has this seal, you can rest assured it doesn't contain any ingredients that could be detrimental to your health. Because drugstore and mass products often contain ingredients that have murky sources or origins (like the blanket term "fragrance," which brands don't need to disclose and can often include a slew of harmful ingredients), it's been difficult for them to get this seal in the past. Revlon changed that with the launch of this primer.
"We understand [customers'] needs are changing and they’re demanding greater transparency about the products they buy and the ingredients in them," Keila Lazardi, Chief Scientific Officer at Revlon, tells Byrdie exclusively. "We want them to know we’re listening, so we partnered with EWG, the widely recognized and most rigorous evaluator of personal care products to secure their prestigious EWG VERIFIED mark for this primer."
We take the term "clean beauty" very seriously here at Byrdie HQ (we talk about our stance towards clean and what it means to us specifically in our Clean Beauty Pledge here). Since the term "clean" isn't regulated in the beauty industry and can mean, well, anything, we wanted to find out exactly what that meant ingredient-wise in this primer. "In order to earn the mark, Revlon’s PhotoReady Prime Plus Perfecting + Smoothing Primer had to be free of substances that have been banned or restricted by U.S. or international government agencies, or other authoritative public health bodies such as the World Health Organization; fully disclose the specific ingredients that make up their fragrance mixtures; and use good manufacturing practices," explains Nneka Leiba, vice president of healthy living science at EWG. When we pressed her on what ingredients the primer left out that other drugstore primers usually contain, she emphasized Revlon's transparency about what exactly went into the ingredient "fragrance." "Revlon emphasized their commitment to transparency by meeting EWG’s disclosure standards to fragrance, a leading move towards clean beauty," she disclosed. As we did a quick scan of the ingredients list, we noticed the inclusion of PEGs, which are generally considered safe for use in cosmetics overall. However, the process of making PEGs involves ethoxylation, which produces 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct. According to the National Toxicology Program, “1,4-dioxane is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”
Leiba explains, "There are processes companies can use to strip the 1,4-dioxane from their products and ingredients. So, rather than add ethoxylated ingredients to the unacceptable list, EWG has required companies that use these ingredients to ensure that the contaminant is stripped from their ingredients and products." Considering Revlon has earned EWG's seal of approval, we can assume they've done just that. Other than PEGs, the ingredients list reads much shorter and cleaner than most of its drugstore counterparts, which could be an indication of a beauty future that's clean and accessible (previously, the clean beauty movement has been criticized for being unattainable for those who couldn't afford a higher price point ). "Our goal is to continue to make safe and effective products in a way that provides consumers with more choices and added assurances," says Lazardi. "We know they are demanding accessible clean beauty without the suspicion or guesswork. Over the last several years, Revlon has shared more information about the ingredients we use to meet consumer demands on transparency and remain committed to improving the traceability of our source material and procuring from suppliers that abide by our third party code of conduct."
So, is the future of Revlon and other mass beauty companies looking cleaner and more transparent by the day? TBD, though Lazardi promises "many more exciting launches." We're primed and ready for the change.
National Toxicology Program. Report on Carcinogens, Fourteenth Edition.