There is a lot of talk out there right now about parabens and phthalates. We suspect they’re bad, but how do you know if your favorite beauty products contain them if you’ve already tossed the packaging? And what about all of these other strange sounding ingredients on the label? How do you know if they are safe or harmful? Certainly you could do an Internet search for each ingredient, but that would be very time consuming given that the average woman uses over 15 different beauty and personal care products every day. Luckily, there are two really well stocked databases out there that have done all the research for you.
Cosmetics Safety Databases:
The Good Guide rates product safety, environmental and social impact to produce one score. Each category is scored separately in addition to the overall score, so that you can see the breakdown. In this database you can search by brand, product and specific ingredient under categories such as personal care, food, household, babies and kids and even pet food.
The Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is perhaps more well known. The scoring method is based on product hazard level juxtaposed against the amount of data available on the particular product or ingredient. Search methods are by brand, product or ingredient in categories such as sun, makeup, skin care, hair, fragrance, eye care, nails, oral care, mens and babies.
Both databases have a large number of items entered, which has taken many years of work to accumulate and add. However, because new products and brands are constantly being created, it is possible that you will not find what you’re looking for in either database. Besides the databases, there are many other informative sites regarding product safety. But beware of ones that may have an ulterior motive to telling you a product or ingredient is safe. Many beauty, cosmetics, toiletry and perfumery associations and councils will put out self-sponsored studies and questionable statistics to convince you their members’ products are safe. But this information should be taken with reserve as these associations and councils are made up of and funded by the big cosmetics companies and their motivation is to keep you buying their products. The people who run The Good Guide and Skin Deep databases are not connected to commercial interests. If you’re not sure about a website, always visit the “About” page to find out more. If they don’t post any information about who created the site, it’s probably wise to find a different one.
A few points to consider:
- The cosmetics industry is self regulated with very little government involvement. Do not count on them to protect you, as they are motivated by profit and not safety.
- The majority of safety studies done by cosmetics companies are to test skin irritability and tolerance and not the potential impact a product may have on our bodies or immune system. They do not test ingredients for their potential as a carcinogen nor do they study the impact of long term use of an ingredient or product. They also do not they study the possible consequences of chemical interactions between ingredients, also known as a “chemical cocktail”.
- Start the habit of reading labels or even researching your products before you buy. Take the time to read and understand the ingredients. Your health is worth it.
- Don’t assume that a because a certain brand has a few safe products, all its products are safe. A lot of brands have safe products and also products that are not so safe. Even a particular item’s safety rating can change depending on the color or formula, so your favorite lipstick might be safe in beige but questionable in pink.
- Labeling standards vary so don’t give a free pass to products labeled “organic” or “certified” or “natural” or “hypoallergenic” because they can still contain questionable ingredients. With all the bad press regarding toxins in cosmetics, it’s a new trend to label products organic or natural. But a lot of times this can be simply a marketing technique instead of a sincere claim. What matters most are the ingredients themselves.
- Don’t become overwhelmed. It is probably not possible to completely eliminate your exposure to toxic ingredients. Focus instead on reducing your risk by trying to avoid synthetic ingredients as much as you can. Natural products with very few ingredients are the safest choice.
- If you don’t have time to check every product against the database, try become familiar with the ingredients that pose the biggest risk so that you always know what to look for when reading package labels. Create a list and keep it in your wallet.
- Don’t assume that just because the product is expensive or made by a quality brand means it’s safe. Many high end and expensive brands are the worst offenders when it comes to cheap and questionable ingredients.
- Products for babies and children do not have stricter standards compared to products made for adults. Toxins in baby products are particularly troubling because a child’s immune system is still developing and they have a smaller body weight. Many products for babies and kids have scary ingredients.
- Think about paring down your bathing and beauty routine to just a few necessary and safe products. The idea that you need a cleanser, toner, moisturizer, serum, and face mask to get your face clean is a marketing tactic to get you to buy more products. Another concern is overloading your body with certain ingredients that are multiplied with each product. Skin does best with minimal products that are gentle and natural and by using less products you’ll be saving time and money too.
- If you can’t find a particular ingredient in the database, try it with a different spelling. Many chemicals and ingredients have several spellings which can create confusion.
- If you have skin conditions such as rosacea or eczema, try to use only 100% natural products on your skin instead of chemical laden products that claim to treat these conditions. It’s possible that the toxic chemicals are causing the condition in the first place.
- You don’t have to dump everything you own all at once and spend a lot of money replacing them. Instead do it gradually. Once you’ve used up a current product, try replacing it with a safer and healthier alternative. Or maybe you’ll decide that you don’t even need it!
For more information, check out these common safety myths provided by Skin Deep.