Think pink -- or not -- for breast cancer awareness month


If it’s October it must be time to think pink -- as in breast cancer awareness month. Prepare for a deluge of all things pink, from mints to mugs and everything in between. The phenomenon is as predictable as the onslaught of Christmas, but it doesn’t come without controversy.

Many companies are accused this time of year of “pinkwashing.” Breast Cancer Action, a breast cancer movement watchdog group, claims coinage of the phrase, most often defined as, “the practice of using the color pink and pink ribbons to indicate a company has joined the search for a breast cancer cure and to invoke breast cancer solidarity, even when the company may be using chemicals linked to cancer.”

Basically it’s a marketing ploy that can have little to do with raising awareness or substantial amounts of money. Critics see the spate of pink items as nothing more than a bandwagon jump to bring more awareness to that company’s brand rather than breast cancer. If you want to read a good piece on the whole phenomenon, check out Suzanne Reisman’s blog post from a year ago, as well as Christie Aschwanden’s thoughts in the L.A. Times about downside of awareness campaigns. They’re evergreen.


Last month, BCAction dinged breast cancer nonprofit Susan G. Komen For the Cure for its Promise Me perfume. BCAction claimed the fragrance had chemicals not listed on the label that are toxic, have not been tested for human safety and have been shown to have negative health effects. Komen has agreed to reformulate the perfume.

But onto the stuff. Let’s take a look at a sampling of the 2011 crop of pink things:

iRenew bracelets, which “may promote balance, endurance, and strength when worn,” according to the website, now come in breast cancer awareness pink! The company will donate 15% of sales of their breast cancer sport bracelet (which retails for $19.99) to the 26.2 with Donna National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer. Those marathons also raise money for breast cancer research.

Need a mint? Try a limited edition Pink Grapefruit Tic Tac! The company is donating $100,000 to CancerCare, part of its Shake, Share & Care campaign that supports breast cancer awareness and the nonprofit charity, which provides free support services to people who have been touched by cancer. The pink Tic Tacs are supposed to help raise awareness.

You can’t have fund-raising without T-shirts, and a company called Katydid has stepped up, producing pink-ribbon design burnout T-shirts. “Burnout tees are the hottest fad for those looking to combine fashion and comfort,” says a press release in case you were curious. Oh, and, “The pink ribbon collection is available in many styles and in three colors to suite [sic] every woman’s needs.” For each purchase made from the pink ribbon collection in October (the shirts retail for about $33), the company will donate $10 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

With a new T-shirt must come new makeup, so Motives cosmetics is helping fight breast cancer with Motives Collagen Core lipstick and Motives Mineral lipstick -- both in shades of pink, of course. One dollar from the sale of every lipstick ($22.50 and $15.75, respectively) sold between Wednesday and Oct. 31 will go “to benefit those affected by breast cancer,” although no specific charity is named. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

Avon has a bunch of breast cancer awareness month items, including a pink denim jacket, a tote bag and nail polish. While the company says 100% of proceeds will go to breast cancer programs, in a news release none are specified.


Sharpie kicks off its “Ink it Pink” campaign by asking celebrities and fans to sign autographs and send them to Sharpie. For every autograph the company is giving $1 to the City of Hope. Really? A whole dollar? Hey, here’s a crazy thought: If you auctioned off some of those celebrity autographs you might make more than a dollar. You can have that one for free. You’re welcome.

Are there more? You bet -- more than we have the time or energy to tell you about. But if you have some thoughts about the tide of pink for breast cancer awareness, sound off.