"Skin Deep" Database Provides Details on Safety of Skin Care and Cosmetic Products

May 2, 2011

The Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, a free online database maintained by the Environmental Working Group, provides information on the safety and potential harms of ingredients in make-up, sunscreen, facial cleansers and moisturizers, contact lens solutions, shampoo, nail polish and remover, baby wipes, soaps, and creams, toothpaste, fragrances, and other cosmetic and skin care products.

You can browse by cosmetic category or search for the name of your favorite product to find out about possible hazards in terms of cancer risk, reproductive toxicities, and allergies. Information is also provided on companies’ animal testing policies. The directions and ingredients listed on each product label is listed, and links are provided to other similar product types and products from the same manufacturer. You can also read others comments and leave your own on specific product pages.

Because in some cases there may not be much testing data on particular ingredients, the amount of available data is labeled, such as none, limited, fair, or robust. Information is provided on whether the data come from a single or multiple animal studies (which may be of limited value for humans), or if there is strong evidence of potential harm in humans.

Sources of data used for the assessments and the methods for computing scores are provided at http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/site/about.php. Thus, you can see how the assessments and ratings are derived in a pretty transparent way. For the fellow librarian readers, yes, I sent them a suggestion about the Hazardous Substance Data Bank!

I love the idea of a database like this, because it’s often difficult to know how “safe” any particular product is. I personally don’t have the appropriate background in toxicology to assess how accurately the potential risks of common ingredients are described, so I’d love to hear from readers with that expertise. I’ll also leave it to commenters to talk about why it was necessary for the “men’s” products to be in their own segregated section of the site. 😉

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