Beauty Beat: Minnesota Bans Mercury From Cosmetics, Scents

Taking the better-safe-than-sorry route, Minnesota is banning mercury from cosmetics, toiletries and fragrances.

Minnesota Bans Mercury From Cosmetics, Scents

WASHINGTON — Taking the better-safe-than-sorry route, Minnesota is banning mercury from cosmetics, toiletries and fragrances.

The state law, which took hold Tuesday, could result in fines of up to $700 for retailers who knowingly sell goods with mercury and up to $10,000 for manufacturers. It also might be used as leverage to get information on mercury use in the industry.

The toxic element, which in the past was used as a disinfectant and preservative, can accumulate in the body and injure the nervous system.

“The use of mercury preservatives has been discontinued by the industry,” said John Bailey, chief scientist of the Personal Care Product Council in Washington. “There are other preservatives that are better.”

Mercury is already more or less banned from cosmetics, except for small amounts in goods used near the eyes, which are sensitive to certain microorganisms that mercury fights. Occasionally, however, mercury is found in lightening skin creams, said Bailey, though it is an illegal and very dangerous practice.

“[The Minnesota law] is really saying things that have already been done either at the federal level or in practice within the industry,” he said.

But that’s not enough for the North Star State, which this year adopted new restrictions on the use of mercury across a number of products.

John Gilkeson, principal planner at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said the beauty industry would not disclose its use of mercury, even at legal levels, and that federal laws prohibit states from legislating labeling requirements. “The only avenue that’s open to states in this area is to prohibit their sale,” said Gilkeson. “We don’t know what products contain mercury. We don’t know if there are cases where you have manufacturing practices that aren’t up to snuff. You could potentially have a product with a very high level and there’s no oversight. There’s no testing. It’s kind of an honor system.”

The concern is a timely one, given the recalls in 2007 of Chinese-made toys bearing lead paint, a product of poor supply chain control and unscrupulous subcontractors.

This story first appeared in the January 3, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Gilkeson said the state would see what information it could get from the Personal Care Product Council and then perhaps proceed with testing products for mercury.

“If we do find a violation, we’re going to have a different perspective if the industry is being forthcoming with us,” said Gilkeson. “We’re really trying to take the preventative approach here. People don’t need organic mercury around their eyes. That’s going to be absorbed. It’s not an inert substance. It’s an unnecessary, avoidable exposure.”
— Evan Clark

Lancôme Taps Hathaway

Lancôme said Tuesday that it has named Anne Hathaway as its latest brand ambassador and the face of its new women’s fragrance.

This confirms a report in WWD on Oct. 17.

In this role, Hathaway — the 25-year-old American actress who rose to prominence playing the title role in the 2001 film “The Princess Diaries” and later cemented her fame with 2006’s “The Devil Wears Prada” — will represent the brand, with one of her chief duties for 2008 being promoting the as-yet-unnamed women’s scent that Lancôme will launch globally in September.

“Anne Hathaway is a radiant young woman who perfectly embodies modern femininity,” said Odile Roujol, president of Lancôme International, in a statement. “We know she will portray all the passion and excitement of our new fragrance.”

Lancôme has signed several of Hollywood’s heavy hitters over the last year, naming Kate Winslet as the face of its Trésor women’s scent in June and inking a deal in January 2007 with Clive Owen to serve as the face of Lancôme Men.

Hathaway, unavailable for comment Wednesday, has two movies slated for release this year: the long-awaited movie version of the vintage TV series “Get Smart,” and “Passengers,” in which she stars with Dianne Wiest. She is also in postproduction of “Dancing With Shiva,” tentatively slated for a late 2008 release, and in preproduction on “Bride Wars,” expected out next year.

— Julie Naughton

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