In the last few years, there’s been a great deal of controversy over what some call the over-marketing of pink merchandise in October. While some of this blush and magenta merchandise or products emblazoned with pink ribbons benefit breast cancer research, much of it doesn’t. And that, as a woman and careful consumer, has me seeing red.

Just the other day, I overheard a conversation at the ice rink where my son plays hockey. Two moms were chatting about buying pink tape for their kids’ hockey sticks and pink laces for their skates. (Many ice rinks have official and unofficial Pink at the Rink events modeled after those in the National Hockey League.)

Having just spent a small fortune for my son to play hockey this season—along with the crazy cost of equipment—the last thing I need to spend money on is pink tape and pink laces, of which neither would benefit breast cancer research. I would much rather the rink set up an October collection box where money you otherwise spend on “awareness” merchandise goes directly to breast cancer research.

Since 2002 Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink campaign has called for more transparency and accountability from companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, calling out those companies who use the pink ribbon and the month of October as a way to sell products to naive consumers viewing them through rose-colored glasses.

Here’s how to make sure your money works toward a cure, and to avoid buying pink for pink’s sake:

1. Look for a label on the pink product that states what portion of the sale benefits breast cancer research, and which breast cancer organization the manufacturer will support.

2. Find out what the donation limit is for the product you are planning to buy. Some companies place a cap on the amount of money they will donate, say $100,000, and anything above and beyond that is pure profit. If possible, look for products that don’t place a cap on the profits donated from the sale of their pink product.

3. Compare the cost of the pink product to its non-pink counterpart. If the pink product is much greater, consider buying the plain product, pocketing the difference, and writing a check to a breast cancer organization instead.

4. Check out the fiscal responsibility of the breast cancer organization related to the product you are purchasing, or to which you’d like to make a donation. Charity Navigator has made it easy for you to compare in its list of “Charities Working to Prevent and Cure Breast Cancer.”

5. Make sure the product you are buying doesn’t promote practices or contain ingredients that actually cause cancer. Yes, according BCA, some products using pink as a marketing tool can be detrimental to our health and increase women’s risk of the very disease they claim to want to eliminate.

I’m all for donning pink in support of breast cancer survivors: A high school classmate and college classmate of mine both died of breast cancer, at age 32 and 28 respectively, and a cousin recently won her battle after a double mastectomy. I just want to make sure I’m not being fleeced in the process.

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