As a student at Harvard Business School, I have the honor of receiving dozens of daily recruitment emails from companies eager to court me for a summer internship. My entire class submits their resumes for a "resume book," which is purchased by thousands of companies so they can handpick the perfect candidates for their open positions, hoping that we will use everything we learn in business school to improve their operations and in turn, make them more money. I instantly delete most of these emails without even opening them, as they come from the most uninspiring corporations and boring consulting firms that I have absolutely no interest in. Today, however, I saw the word "L'Oreal" flash in my inbox, so I obviously clicked to open the email, and my jaw dropped as I read:
I guess you didn't get a chance to review my resume before sending this email, because if you had you would have realized that I am definitely not the right candidate for an internship at L'Oreal. I have been a chemical activist since the age of fifteen, committed specifically to spreading awareness about the unregulated cosmetic industry and the unnecessary chemicals in our beauty products. I actually just wrote an article for my website, Beauty Lies Truth, (beautyliestruth.com) about the top 10 best and worst beauty brands, based on the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database, which is the only real resource available to learn about cosmetic safety. I included L'Oreal's "Professional Texture Expert Volume Elevation Volumizing Serum-Gel" on this list, as it is one of the most toxic products on the entire database, with a score of 10 and ingredients linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity, endocrine disruption, irritation, organ system toxicity, occupational hazards, biochemical or cellular changes, enhanced skin absorption, and ecotoxicology. Here is a link to the scientific data I referenced.
As a fellow HBS student and someone you specifically reached out to, I feel I deserve to know your level of awareness regarding the ingredients in the products you sell, and your reasoning behind the use of toxic chemicals in L'Oreal products. Many of these chemicals, such as parabens, have been banned or restricted in Europe, yet L'Oreal still uses them in their U.S. products. My question is: why? Why does L'Oreal have safer formulations for European countries? Why does the leading beauty company willingly expose us to hazardous chemicals? If your answer is that these small, daily exposures don't matter, I wholeheartedly disagree. Parabens have been found in breast cancer tissue, and because many of your products, like shampoo, are used everyday, you are a part of the problem contributing to increased breast cancer rates. The same organization that open-sourced these toxic "beauty secrets" to protect public health also tested my own body for levels of chemicals that are found in your products. As a former L'Oreal customer, it is not surprising that I have above average levels of parabens in my body. My Body Burden results can be seen here.
Consumer ignorance is L'Oreal's only safety net protecting your harmful products, but as awareness spreads, all of the mainstream beauty companies (including L'Oreal) will be faced with an outpouring of outrage from your (former) loyal customers, who spent far too long believing they were in good hands. I have made it my duty to educate everyone at HBS about the potential health risks associated with the commercial brands such as L'Oreal, and my section has already started shifting their buying choices to safe, organic alternatives.
Long story short, I will not be applying for an internship at L'Oreal.
I would like you to respond with an honest assessment of the ingredients in L'Oreal, and whether you would use the products on your children. If you do not respond, I will assume that it is indeed true that your company cares more about profit than about the health of my generation.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Jessica Assaf Public Health Advocate Turned Businesswoman HBS MBA Candidate, Class of 2016