October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and everywhere you look things are coming up pink. Facebook and Twitter profiles are turning rosy, and even hot-spots like Niagara Falls and the Georgia Aquarium are celebrating by lighting up in pink for the entire month.

And it doesn't stop there. From candles, to coffee mugs, to garden hoses, you can find just about any kind of merchandise in pink this month to raise money for breast cancer services and research. It's a great time of year to score some cool pink goodies all while raising money for a good cause. But just how much of that money really makes it in to the coffers? Here's how to make sure that what you get is really pink, and not pinkwashed:

Check the dollars and cents: Check the package before you purchase to find out exactly how much of the purchase price will be donated to a breast cancer services or research. If it doesn't say, or isn't clear, then you might want to give your dough directly to the cause.

Know the cause: Does the product you're considering purchasing tell you exactly where the donated proceeds will go and how they will be spent? If the packaging simply says something vague about making a donation to "breast cancer research," you might want to pass and spend your money elsewhere.

Check the cap: Many companies place a cap on the maximum amount of overall funds that will be donated. Once they reach that cap (whether it's $500 or $500,000) they stop giving, no matter how many products are purchased. If it's important to you that your money goes to the cause, make sure that the cap has not yet been met.

Read the fine print: Before you buy, make sure you know exactly what you need to do to ensure that your purchase will create funds for breast cancer research. One example: Lean Cuisine frozen meals. The packaging for each of these products has a pink ribbon on it, so you may think that simply buying the meal is enough to generate a donation. But if you read the fine print, you'll see that you actually need to visit the Lean Cuisine website and purchase a lunch tote first. Only then will Lean Cuisine give proceeds from the tote to breast cancer research.

Green your pink: Last but not least, you should check to make sure that the product that you're purchasing to help fight breast cancer does not actually cause breast cancer. Cosmetics and personal care products are a prime example. Many contain chemicals linked to breast cancer, yet their manufacturers still sell their items for the cause. It seems like a no-brainer to avoid these purchases, but for some reason the practice of "pinking" products that are linked to breast cancer persists.  

It makes sense to think before you pink so that you can make sure that your hard-earned cash will go to help a worthy cause. For more information about breast cancer and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, check out these top-notch websites:

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation

National Breast Cancer Foundation

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