Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Pinkwashing


October, known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is when the world is awash in shades of pink, symbolizing support for breast cancer patients, survivors, and ongoing research. The iconic pink ribbon, often prominently displayed by countless brands and organizations, has become synonymous with the fight against breast cancer. However, beneath the rosy exterior lies a complex issue known as “pinkwashing” – a practice where companies use the pink ribbon for marketing and profit, often without contributing to the cause or even selling products that could be harmful or cancer-causing.

The pink ribbon was introduced in the early 1990’s by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and the Estée Lauder Companies. It was intended to symbolize hope and support for breast cancer survivors and raise funds for research, education, and patient support. Over the years, the pink ribbon has grown into a global symbol of breast cancer awareness.

While many companies genuinely support breast cancer research and awareness, others engage in “pinkwashing” – where they display the pink ribbon to boost their sales and image, often without meaningful contributions to the cause. This marketing strategy can be misleading, as consumers may assume their purchases support breast cancer initiatives when, in reality, only a fraction of the proceeds go to charity.

Pink ribbons sell products, but are they actually supporting breast cancer awareness?

Even more concerning is the fact that some companies that display the pink ribbon sell products that contain potentially harmful chemicals or ingredients linked to cancer. For instance, cosmetics and personal care products may contain parabens, phthalates, and other chemicals that have raised concerns about their potential carcinogenic properties. Yet, these same products may be packaged with pink ribbons, misleading consumers into thinking they support breast cancer awareness while unknowingly purchasing items that could contribute to health issues.

Breast cancer is a serious and complex issue that deserves genuine attention and support. While awareness campaigns and fundraising initiatives during Breast Cancer Awareness Month are crucial, it is equally important for consumers to make informed choices. Here are some steps you can take to ensure your support indeed contributes to the cause:

  • Research Brands: Before purchasing products associated with the pink ribbon, research the company’s commitment to breast cancer causes. Look for transparency in their donations and partnerships with reputable organizations.
  • Check Product Ingredients: Examine the ingredients of personal care and cosmetic products. Avoid those containing potentially harmful substances and opt for safer alternatives.
  • Donate Directly: To make a meaningful impact, consider donating directly to breast cancer charities or organizations involved in research, patient support, and advocacy.
  • Raise Awareness: Share this information about pinkwashing with friends and family to promote consumer awareness. The more informed consumers are, the more likely they are to make responsible choices.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a vital reminder of the ongoing battle against breast cancer and the need for increased research and support. While the pink ribbon is a powerful symbol of unity and hope, it’s essential to be cautious of pinkwashing and the potential pitfalls it presents. By making informed choices and supporting organizations that genuinely contribute to the cause, we can ensure that our efforts during Breast Cancer Awareness Month lead to meaningful progress in the fight against this devastating disease.

A family friend who has been fighting her own battle for the last 5 years has inspired me to give back. Each October, I do a fundraiser to make pouches full of clean goodies and donate them to local cancer centers in her honor. This year, I will donate pouches to UC San Diego Cancer Center in San Diego and half to UCSF-John Muir Health Cancer Center in Pleasant Hill. Together we can bring a little cheer to these strong warriors on treatment day.

If you would like to donate or sponsor a pouch for a friend, please get in touch with me for more info.

Michelle Berry



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