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Gregg Renfrew Leads The Clean Beauty Movement

By February 6, 2020January 17th, 2024No Comments
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Episode #497



This show spends a lot of time exploring the health, environmental and ethical implications of the food we eat.

But what we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in our bodies.

Today we shift gears to explore how vastly uninformed most of us are when it comes to the consequences caused by the innumerable products we slather daily on our largest organ: our skin.

You might be surprised to learn that approximately 84,000 chemicals currently find their way into commercial products — with over 1,500 new chemicals released annually. Despite evidence of health harms, most of these chemicals have not been adequately tested for their impact on humans. Nonetheless, many of them find their way into a wide and problematic array of skincare, beauty and cleaning products.

Moreover, due to laws that haven’t been updated in 80 years, I was shocked to discover that the Food and Drug Administration — the regulatory authority charged with ensuring the safety of such products — doesn’t necessarily screen product ingredients for safety. In fact, it provides very little oversight when it comes to what ends up in beauty products. Worse yet, the FDA has zero authority to recall products even in the event of a proven harm.

When entrepreneur Gregg Renfrew learned that the US has not passed any major legislation about the safety of ingredients in personal care products since 1939, she became determined to make the business of beauty better. Hence was born Beautycountera market disrupting, direct-to-consumer line of cleaner, safer skincare products and cosmetics that made Fast Company’s 2019 list of the 50 most innovative companies.

Gregg’s been at the helm of Beautycounter since its 2011 inception, driven by a desire to provide toxic-free fare and greater economic opportunity for women. In addition to overseeing 150 employees and 40,000 consultants, Gregg is also a ferocious fixture on Capitol Hill, where she lobbies relentlessly for cosmetic industry reform. And she somehow does it all while remaining a present and involved mom to three of the most incredible kids I have ever met.

Her ultimate goal? Overhauling the archaic laws that currently govern her industry — so we can all be beautifully clean.

Similar to a handful of past podcast guests, I struck up a friendship with Gregg in 2018 at The Nantucket Project. Over the last year and a half, I’ve had the privilege of observing her in action — at work, on stage, and at home. Let’s just say it’s all very impressive.

Today she shares her story.

It’s a conversation about an entrepreneurial journey that humbly began with cleaning houses before founding Wedding List — a company she built and later sold, leading to lessons learned working tricky stretches under powerful women like Martha Stewart and Susie Hilfiger.

Never compromise health in the name of beauty.

– Gregg Renfrew

It’s about the experience that motivated her to start Beautycounter, and the unorthodox decisions that followed. Like the 1,500 potentially harmful ingredients she vowed never to use in her products — dubbed The Never List, it was recently updated to 1,800 ingredients. And the choice to eschew traditional retail for a direct-to-consumer business model driven by a network of independent consultants.

But more than anything, this is a powerful primer on the perils of conventional beauty products that will leave you completely rethinking what you put on your body (and your children’s bodies) — and well armed to make more educated decisions about the companies and products you patronize going forward.

The visually inclined can watch it all go down on YouTube. And as always, the audio version streams wild and free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Gregg is a true force of nature. And this conversation is a gift. May you receive it with gratitude.

P.S. Special thanks to Gregg for letting me occasionally kidnap her husband Mark, my new best friend and go to workout partner. I promise to bring him back from Ötillö Catalina in one piece (but in truth I think it’s Mark that needs to worry about bringing me back intact).

P.P.S. Beautycounter just released an incredible short documentary entitled Transparency: The Truth About Mica about the problematic nature of this ingredient, widely used in cosmetics. You can watch it here.

Peace + Plants,

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Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, audio engineering and show notes; Margo Lubin and Blake Curtis for video, editing and graphics; portraits by Ali Rogers; and theme music by Hari Mathis, Tyler Piatt & Trapper Piatt.

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