NEW YORK — The cosmetics industry doesn’t just want to make breast cancer survivors look better — it is also determined to fund the grassroots research that one day could eliminate the disease altogether.

And beauty execs are definitely putting their money where their mouths are: To date, beauty firms involved in the effort have raised more than $400 million for the cause during the past 15 years.

“This kind of effort is a great credit to our industry,” said Irene Malbin, vice president of public affairs for the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, referring to October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month and the fund-raising efforts that are undertaken each year. “The cosmetic industry is in a unique position to reach women, and they are helping women and their families not only in terms of awareness, but in terms of research.”

In 1993, Evelyn Lauder, senior corporate vice president of the Estée Lauder Cos., founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The organization, which has raised nearly $100 million thus far to support the cause, is funded in a variety of ways — including by selling beauty items produced by the Lauder divisions. This year, several fashion heavyweights are donating percentages of selected products to the BCRF, including Coach, Cartier, Jimmy Choo and Wolford. As reported, Lauder is also putting the world in the pink throughout the month of October by lighting up a slew of international monuments in the international breast cancer color.

Revlon is also a strong supporter of research and has set up its own breast cancer research center, the Revlon/UCLA Women’s Cancer Research Program. The center was responsible for the work that led to the conception of Herceptin, the first nontoxic targeted therapy to fight against women’s cancers. Revlon also hosts one of the nation’s largest 5K events, the Revlon Run/Walk for Women, twice a year in New York and L.A.

The Avon Foundation and its breast cancer program, the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, established in 1992, have recently joined in partnership with the National Cancer Institute for the Avon-NCI Progress for Patients program. The program will provide $20 million in grants to researchers whom NCI will help Avon to select. In a separate venture Avon gave $4 million in a partnership with the American College of Radiology Imaging for a clinical trial to compare the effectiveness of traditional mammogram with ultrasound technology in early detection.

This story first appeared in the October 15, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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A new initiative for 2004, the Avon Foundation/Center for Disease Control Mobile Access Program sent mammography vans to seven U.S. towns with limited access to early detection tests, including Pittsburg, Kan.; Alpina, Mich., and the Bronx in New York City.

To recognize the efforts of the researchers it has worked with and to continue the fund-raising effort for BCA past October, Avon is throwing its 3rd Annual Kiss Goodbye to Breast Cancer Gala at the new Jazz at Lincoln Center in the AOL/Time Warner building here on Nov. 8. The evening, which is also a fund-raising event, will give awards to important breast cancer researchers and will feature performances by Vanessa Carlton and Harry Connick Jr. As well, Avon’s series of six Avon Walk for Breast Cancer events raised nearly $23 million in the first four walks alone.

The Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation, begun in 1996, is also awarding grants of $100,000 each to 10 researchers this year. The company is also attacking breast cancer on the advocacy front, distributing a free breast self-exam shower card and an informational video on the disease through its Web site and representatives.

Orly International, in addition to donating profits from sales to the fund, participated in Expedition Inspiration’s Take-A-Hike campaign in early October (see inset).

Even newcomers to the industry are being swept up in the drive to get involved. E.l.f., a young mass market brand, has teamed up with Win Against Breast Cancer to deliver color therapy packages to inner-city breast cancer patients. The initiative, similar in concept to CTFA’s Look Good Feel Better program that teaches cancer survivors about makeup and skin care and runs all year across the country, involves loading care packages with e.l.f.’s entire line, with an emphasis on the company’s brightest color products. E.l.f. president Scott Vincent Borba and WINABC founder/president/ceo Elizabeth Mullen will deliver the packages personally to patients in New York’s inner-city hospitals.

— H.M.