A friend of mine recently told me about the Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Database, maintained by the Environmental Working Group. Their website states:
In 2004 we launched Skin Deep, an online safety guide for cosmetics and personal care products. Our aim was to fill in where companies and the government leave off: companies are allowed to use almost any ingredient they wish, and our government doesn’t require companies to test products for safety before they’re sold. EWG’s scientists built Skin Deep to be a one-of-a-kind resource, integrating our in-house collection of personal care product ingredient listings with more than 50 toxicity and regulatory databases.
Intrigued, I decided to put some of my personal care products to the test. You may recall that I recently mentioned that I’ve been trying to scrutinize product labels in an attempt to weed out nasty chemicals. I was curious to see how I’ve done in this regard.
Skin Deep ranks product safety on a 0-10 scale. Zero – 2 is considered low risk, 3-6 is considered a moderate hazard, and 7-10 is considered a high hazard. Each rating is based on ingredient safety in terms of known causes of cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, violations & warnings, allergies, and a myriad of other safety issues.
To begin, I decided to look-up products that I feel fairly certain pose little to no risk to my health. These are items I’ve specifically chosen because they utilize natural, safe ingredients. Let’s see how they did:
Toms of Maine toothpaste
score = 3
Dr. Schrammek blemish balm
score = (not found in database)
Method body wash
score = 5
Naked Naturals shea butter and avocado shampoo
score = 4
Jergens Naturals body lotion
score = 6
Alba Botanica green tea eye gel
score = 2 very low risk
Burt’s Bees lip shimmer
score = 3
Next, I looked up products that I was actually pessimistic about. I didn’t choose them for health or safety reasons, they are not advertised as “natural” in any way, and my assumption was that they would turn up some issues.
Donna Karen Cashmere Mist body lotion
score = 8 high hazard
Donna Karen Cashmere Mist perfume
score =8 high hazard
Herbal Essences Hello Hydration conditioner
Ion Color Defense styling mousse
score = not listed, their other products are rated at 5-6
Mitchum Power Gel deodorant
score = 2 very low risk
Olay Regenerist night recovery moisturizer
score = 7 high hazard
What I learned
Most products fall into the moderate 3-6 range. I already knew that just because something is labeled “natural” doesn’t automatically mean the product is safe. Still I was surprised by a few of the scores, such as the Jergens Naturals lotion. Besides having a score of 6, the database also told me that 74% of body lotions have lower concerns. Seventy-four percent! I’ll definitely be looking into a product among that 74% the next time I need lotion.
I was also surprised that the Method body wash had a score of five. I’m sure I can find a product I like just as much with a lower score. In fact, I am mostly concerned with the products (such as body lotion and wash) that I use on a very regular basis, have direct skin contact, and are used over the majority of my body. I’m less concerned about the perfume because I don’t use it absolutely every day and it’s just a spritz here and there.
I’m also sort of bummed about the Olay cream score. My skin has looked great since I started using this product a few weeks ago. I knew in the back of my head it wasn’t a natural product, but I bought it and have been loving it anyway. I may research some creams that have a lower score although I’ve tried many “natural” facial moisturizers and I’ve been disappointed.
Another great feature of the site is the ability to find safer products. Each entry tells you what percentage of products are safer. If you click on the percentage, you can then scroll through the entire list of rated products in that category to find a safer alternative… something I will definitely be doing for body lotion and body wash, and perhaps night face cream.
To visit the database and put your own arsenal of personal products to the test, click here. Report back on your findings in the comment section below and let the rest of us know what your research uncovered.