“I started wearing Heaven Scent in elementary school,” she begins, rattling off her olfactive history with the ubiquitous teen scent before moving on to racier blends. “Taboo was in junior high. And, of course, I was crazy about Opium!!”
The repertoire continued into adulthood, including Creed’s Tuberose and Must de Cartier. But when Pfeiffer had her kids (in the mid-’90s), she started paying closer attention to ingredient labels, including the ones on beauty products. She discovered the Environmental Working Group’s database and deep dived into the world of personal care and beauty red-flags.
“A lot of the beauty categories were moving toward clean, but fragrance wasn’t,” she says. “So, ultimately, I stopped wearing it.”
But she missed it too much. So, after a years-long moratorium, the actor, who’s never signed with any brand — fashion, beauty, or otherwise — pitched her idea of a clean fine fragrance to a few beauty companies.
“When I’d bring up the concept of being 100 percent transparent about the ingredients, the conversation shut down,” marveled Pfeiffer. “And I just wasn’t comfortable putting my name or my face on a product that I wouldn’t wear myself.”
The idea was shelved until Ken Cook, president and co-founder of EWG, reached out three years ago, suggesting she talk to fragrance houses that had been busy catching up with the clean crusade. One of the largest, International Flavors and Fragrances, informed her that it was working on formulas that met the standards of Cradle to Cradle, the strict sustainable certification organization.
“I said, ‘Great! Let’s raise the bar even higher for safety,’” she recalls. “So we rolled up our sleeves and went to work.”
False starts ensued, repeatedly. New data would roll in, relegating an ingredient or two to the verboten list, subsequently requiring a tweak or several.
“Each time we had to reformulate, my heart would go into my stomach,” remembers Pfeiffer. “Oddly, though, they have all come out better.”
The end result is Henry Rose, a collection of five gender-free scents, including the woodsy floral Jake’s House, the patchouli and amber Dark is Night, and Torn, a warm vanilla that Pfeiffer herself usually wears.
Each blend is a hybrid of safe naturals and synthetics, something Pfeiffer initially thought she’d never agree to.
“I had no idea I’d end up with a hybrid of safe synthetics and safe naturals. I thought they would all be plant based, organic, natural,” says Pfeiffer. “A lot of people only associate synthetics with being hazardous, but natural things can be poisonous. You don’t want to be rubbing white oleander on your skin.” (Though she was perfect in that movie!) “It’s really about developing the safest product.”
Which brings us to the Personal Care Products Safety Act. Thanks to the advocacy of clean-beauty true believers like Beautycounter’s Gregg Renfrew, senators Diane Feinstein and Susan Collins introduced the bill two years ago, and a vote is expected by early 2020. Pfeiffer is optimistic.
“Everytime I hear someone say that the government doesn’t have the authority to regulate the safe ingredients of products, I think, isn’t that an oxymoron?? I just figured things would not be released to the public that weren’t safe and I think people deserve at least that,” she says, adding, “Call your congressman!”