Pretty Ugly

Washington, District of Columbia | Film Feature

Documentary, Science

Andrea P.

1 Campaigns | Virginia, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $13,336 for post-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

120 supporters | followers

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PRETTY UGLY peels back the label on the cosmetics industry where toxins like lead, formaldehyde and plasticizers are lurking in America's bathroom cabinets. It's time to reveal the ugly truth, so people can avoid these dangerous chemicals. Looks can be deceiving...

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

This feature-length documentary will educate the public about toxins in personal products and cosmetics, explain which chemicals are linked to disease and share practical ways to avoid exposure to them. We are passionate about awareness and advocacy building to better protect the public from toxins!

The Story


PRETTY UGLY is a face-off between toxic chemicals in personal products and one conscientious consumer on a quest for answers in an unregulated world. The film reveals the ugly truth behind the cosmetics and toiletries industry and educates the public about harmful ingredients in personal products and their effects on human and environmental health. The filmmaker, Andrea Palombella, travels across the United States to investigate the most harmful ingredients in cosmetics, explore how these chemicals are linked to diseases, and find out how to avoid exposure to them. 


This project has come SO FAR, and it is almost complete (YAY!), but it has been a very long time in the making. Our director first learned about unsafe chemicals in toiletries during her mother’s breast cancer treatments more than a decade ago. As a female who loves makeup and also healthy living, she dove in to learn as much as she could about the topic. For nearly 14 years, she has spent hundreds of hours researching this issue to learn about the most dangerous chemicals, their links to various diseases, and why the industry lacks regulation in the United States. We began field production in 2017 and have been recording interviews and gathering footage for the past three years. We are thrilled to have recently completed filming!


We have a script ready to dive into editing and associated post-production tasks and are on schedule for an early 2021 release, but we need your partnership to help get us over the finish line and complete the film. All funds raised through this campaign will be used to cover editing, color grading and audio mixing. Help us finish this incredibly important story so, together, we can share this vital and potentially life-saving information with the world! 


Like many others, we understand very well the set-backs and challenges that have hit us all as a result of COVID-19. For us, we have had to delay filming, miss out on opportunities to interview policymakers in Congress, cancel fundraising events and even complete a makeshift outdoor shoot with a masked, two-person crew to keep everyone safe. But we're not giving up, and we ask that you don't either. Every contribution truly does count, so please give what you can. And keep in mind, we have AMAZING incentives for our partners, so check them out and see what you strikes your fancy... :)




It was during Andrea's mother's two-time battle with breast cancer that she leanred about toxic ingredients in personal products and cosmetics. She was shocked and angered. How could companies use known carcinogens in products without consequences? Who was overseeeing this industry and why weren't they protecting the public? What other harmful chemicals could be hiding instide of our products too? She decides to take a journey and find some answers. 


On her quest, Andrea travels across the United States to meet with experts at the National Institutes of Health’s National Toxicology Program, the Environmental Working Group, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, the National Women’s Health Network, and more. She learns about some of the most concerning ingredients and their links to diseases, including cancer, reprodutive harm and hormone imbalance. Andrea then discovers that that major holes in public policy allow companies to use virtually any ingredient with little to no conesquences, meanwhile consumers suffer major health setbacks from baldness to formaldehyde poisoing.


But there is hope! Andrea also speaks to professors and scientists about the effects of cumulative exposure to these toxins and learns how individuals can protect themselves. She also gathers evocative personal testimonies of women who have suffered adverse health effects from harmful chemicals, further substantiating the dangers of toxic ingredients in toiletries. And lastly, she celebrates advocoacy organizations and entreprenuers who are working hard to ensure that personal products and cosmetics are made safe for all consumers, regardless of color palette or price point. The currently state of the cosmetics industry looks pretty ugly, but the future doesn't have to be.




(In alphabetical order by first name)

  • Alessandra Palombella, Two-Time Breast Cancer Survivor
  • Amy Ziff, Founder, MADE SAFE
  • Gail Carlson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies, Colby College
  • Heather Patisaul, Ph.D., Associate Dean, North Carolina State University
  • Janet Nudelman, Director of Program & Policy, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners
  • Jen Arce, Professional Hairstylist
  • Ky Washington, Clean Makeup Artist
  • Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Science and National
  • Toxicology Program, National Institutes of Health (Ret.)
  • M. Isabelle Chaudry, Senior Policy Manager, National Women's Health Network
  • Nneka Leiba, Director of Healthy Living, Environmental Working Group
  • Tina Hedges, Founder, LOLI Beauty and former L'Oréal executive




The cosmetics industry in the United States was valued at $93.5 billion in 2019. It is virtually unregulated by the Federal government and has a long history of using both questionable and blatantly poisonous ingredients. Whether promoting arsenic as a beauty treatment to lighten the skin during the Victorian era or enticing women to use radium, a radioactive material, in lipstick during the 1902s, sadly, not much has changed. Toxic chemicals like lead, phthalates, and toluene are lurking in bathroom cabinets, and millions of consumers have no idea they are slathering toxins on their body as part of their daily get-ready routines.


People are slowly and unintentionally poisoning themselves with micro amounts of toxins in their cosmetics every day, and we're making this film because we don't want them to be exposed to toxic chemicals any longer. It is a sad irony that the very products people use to make themselves feel and look better on the outside could make them sick inside. From toothpaste and deodorant to mascara and sunscreen, Americans are swimming in a toxic cocktail of ingredients.


The average woman is exposed to an average of 168 chemicals per day, found in her toiletries. It is estimated that less than one percent of the ingredients in personal products have been tested for safety, and when an ingredient or formula in a product has been shown to be dangerous, the Federal government has had no power to act. Thus, people continue to be exposed to harmful ingredients that are linked to known health issues. 




PRETTY UGLY will educate audiences on several important subtopics around the primary theme of personal product and cosmetic ingredient safety, including the top toxins in products and how they affect humans and our ecosystems, regulatory efforts to better protect consumers, environmental injustice within the beauty industry, and how the public can make healthier choices and reduce exposure to toxins.  


The time for a major shift in the cosmetic industry is now. Today’s consumers are more informed than ever, and many are looking for safer products and trying to avoid harmful ingredients. An interested and invested audience craving more information about ingredient safety already exists. We've even had individuals and groups form around the country contact us already requesting screenings of the film in their local communities when we complepte it!


Americans are educated about toxins in food, such as glyphosate, and about harmful plasticizers, like BPA, and now is the time to reveal the truth to a national audience about what’s hiding inside of their personal products and what they can do about it to protect themselves and their families.


For more information about the film, to see the pre-release teaser and to access ingredient safety resources, visit


Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Film Edit

Costs $7,500

Our award-winning editor will be logging hundreds of hours to bring this powerful story to life!

Color Correction

Costs $1,000

All the scenes, shot over 5 years, need to be colored evenly and beautifully across the entire film.

Audio Edit and Mix

Costs $3,250

Our audio needs to be smooth and our music mixed flawlessly for the ultimate screening experience.

About This Team

Andrea Palombella - Producer | Director | Writer

Andrea is an award-winning filmmaker with more than a decade of experience and a mission to tell meaningful stories that inspire viewers. Throughout her career, she has served a diverse array of clients including global consumer brands, the federal government and international non-profit organizations. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Loyola University Chicago's Film Program and long-time member of the non-profit Women in Film and Video DC, which is also her fiscal sponsor for PRETTY UGLY. 


Rinny Wilson - Director of Photography

Rinny is a cinematographer based in Richmond, Virginia. She has worked as the director of photography for several films, including Phoebe, Mom, and There is a Reaper. After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Kinetic Imaging department, she spent four years focusing exclusively on post-production before transitioning behind the camera in 2013. Rinny has shot commercials, documentaries, features and short films throughout her career. 


Bob Kanner - Editor 

A highly-acclaimed documentary editor, Bob has more than 35 years of experience editing award-winning productions with domestic and international clients. He has received five local Emmy awards and numerous Telly and CINE awards for excellence in programming and editing. Bob was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) Silver Circle for 25 years of excellence in the field of editing and service to the community in the Washington, D.C. area.


Michael Josephs - Composer

Michael Josephs has been composing music for more than two decades, and his award-winning work includes film scoring, concert music and solo productions. His recent projects include scores for National Geographic, HBO, BBC, PBS, NBC, CBS, ABC and The History Channel. Mr. Josephs has been nominated for a National Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music for his score of the series “Thoroughbred.” 


Emily Bailey - Colorist

Emily graduated with a B.S. in Television/Radio/Film from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. After college, she started a job as a QC screener for NBCUniversal’s Cable Entertainment Division, where she worked her way up to becoming an assistant editor & colorist. There she discovered her passion for the art of color grading, allowing her to combine her love of fine arts and filmmaking. She has color graded a variety of content from documentaries to shorts to commercials and music videos. Just over a year ago Emily accepted a role as an assistant colorist at Company 3, working with the top colorists in the industry.


Camila Franco Ribeiro Gomide - Sound Mixer and Editor

Camila was born and raised in Ilhéus, Brazil. While studying communications for her bachelors, she found a passion for recording and editing sound through podcasts and shortly after transitioned into film. Camila’s work has appeared on Netflix and EPIX, as well as independent projects in the US and Brazil. Camila is a member of IATSE 487 as a sound mixer/boom op and a member of the ABC, the Brazilian Association of Cinematography as a sound editor. In her free time, Camila likes to play soccer, window shop classic cars and ride motorcycles.


Brynn Smith - Production Assistant | Fundraising Assistant | Social Media Manager

Brynn Smith is an International Affairs student at George Washington University (or, currently, her parent’s kitchen table) interested in how narratives can be a powerful tool for change, as well as a meaningful way to connect with and learn from others. She believes that the Pretty Ugly will transform the way people interact with the health and lifestyle industry and is excited to share it with the world.


Morgan Smith - Fundraising Assistant | Social Media Manager

Morgan is a senior at Georgetown University majoring in International Political Economy and Math. She enjoys learning how to break down complex information so that it can impact wider audiences: this goal has fueled her interest in media, and documentary filmmaking in particular. She is excited to be a part of Pretty Ugly's team and help bring crucial truths about the beauty industry to light. In addition to working as the crowdfunding campaign assistant for Pretty Ugly, she is also a communications intern at the Brookings Institution.

Current Team