Reflections from lobbying: How can storytelling help us push for cleaner cosmetics?

On August 15, a coalition of beauty brands, non-profit organizations and salon owners organized by Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) came together at the California State Capitol to lobby for S.B. 574, a right to know bill that requires personal care and beauty brands to disclose harmful fragrances and flavorants. HAN team member Tiffany Cao lobbied to voice HAN’s support of the bill to legislators and reflects on her experience.


Since HAN started partnering with BCPP, we’ve been in support of BCPP’s cosmetics regulation bills making their way through the legislative process at the state and federal level. S.B. 574 has been top of mind, especially because the bill would affect the landscape of cosmetics disclosure in HAN’s home state (California) and has been voted on in a few committees in the past year. 


Getting the chance to walk through the halls of the Capitol has been a unique and exciting way to engage with the issues that I, and HAN, am passionate about. I’ve learned a lot about both the legislative process and how advocacy can help push for the issues we, as constituents, care most about:


The power of numbers

Led by the bill sponsors (BCPP, Women’s Voices for the Earth, Black Women for Wellness), we were grouped in 4’s – each member contributing a unique perspective. Among us were breast cancer survivors, mothers and mothers-to-be, young women, clean beauty brands, green salon owners, and non-profit advocates. The culmination of our stories was a powerful survey of the wide-ranging effects of a lack of fragrance and flavorant disclosure and the need for S.B. 574. 


Speaking personally

We each have our own reasons for supporting our right to know the harmful ingredients we apply to our and our families’ faces and bodies. The most impactful messaging during our lobbying seemed to be the personal stories, not facts or predictions: the worries of a breast cancer survivor that the products they’re using might contribute to a recurrence, a mother’s desire to make sure that her babies have the healthiest start to their lives, a clean beauty founder’s story and mission to change the beauty product landscape.


Engaging as a constituent

We live and contribute to our local communities in a number of ways – participating in schools, shopping in local stores, attending regional events. Our legislators ran for election to represent the districts that they love, and it was clear during our lobbying that it meant a lot to hear from the voices of their constituents. Adding a local touch to the conversation by speaking to the district demographic and showing how unsafe ingredients would affect locals was an effective way to spark interest in the issue at hand.

As daunting as the idea of lobbying seemed at first, I’ve learned that lobbying is simply story-telling, but to an audience that has sway in the regulations and legislation that gets passed. I would absolutely recommend everyone lobby if the opportunity arises, because it’s a great way to voice the issues that we’re most passionate about and share our personal “why” with legislators. 

Lobbying was a great way to hone my story – as a young woman who loves beauty products and will use them for many more decades, as a person working in the clean beauty movement who gets to hear customer concerns and stories – and share it with others. Whether it’s to legislators or to family and friends, I’ve learned that sharing our stories collectively may just be one of the most powerful ways to effect change.