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How Bad Are Your Cosmetics?

The other day while browsing for something I came across Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Reviews which is hosted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) The site contains a huge database of cosmetic products and chemicals used by the cosmetic industry, and rates each product on a scale ranging from 0 to 10, where 10 is the worst offender and 0 is the best.

If you look on a bottle of, say, shampoo, and write into the search box on the site some chemical name from the ingredients list (for example Ammonium Laureth Sulfate), the result will be a number of health hazards associated with that chemical as such (click the image to go to the actual entry on the website):

















Ammonium Laureth Sulfate scores only a 3, so it’s not all that bad.  What’s nice is that it also displays a set of names that this chemical can be listed as, gives you a description of what it actually is, and shows you a list of cosmetic categories—and the products within—that contain this chemical.

And if you search for the product name, say PANTENE PRO-V 2 IN 1 COLOR REVIVAL SHAMPOO & CONDITIONER, it will show you the following summary (click the image to go to the actual entry on the website):
















So I’ve been using this site and searching it for all the products I use and have come to the conclusion that I should have died a horrible death long ago.

If you would like to know how these scores are calculated you can go to the Products, Scores and Methods page, which sheds some light on things. Although a product’s score may be very low (0, say), EWG cannot say that the product is necessarily safe because,as is written on the site, “since safety studies aren't required by law, for many ingredients we find no publicly available information at all".  Still, I would be fairly confident in the scores and the potential meaning of them as far as safety goes. 

Because I haven’t yet died a horrible death from all of the cosmetic crap I use, searching the site for alternatives might be a good idea.  What I would really like, and I haven’t found it on the site yet, is a way to ask for similar products with a better score.  You can do all this sort of filtering on their advanced search screen, and it’s not too bad, either.  Still, I am lazy and I would like to input all of my products and have it suggest alternatives within varying degrees of hazards.  For example, I want shampoo, toothpaste and mouthwash that contain no chemicals associated with Cancer, which can be done in the advanced search, but I would like it to produce better alternatives, and given my locale (southwestern PA), I would like to only see these alternative products in stores that are within so many miles from my home.

So check out the site.  It’s a lot of fun if you’re into such things.


Thomas Clancy said…
Um. I disagree. Say you are presented with two bottles of shampoo whose label and shape you cannot see so as to remain unbiased and are told that bottle 1 contains 85% chemicals that are shown to be hazardous to your health (e.g. cancer, Developmental & reproductive toxicity), and bottle 2 contains 5% hazardous chemicals, 95% natural substances, 75% of which are organic. If asked which one do you think is bad for you and which good, you could probably answer bottle 2 is good, bottle 1 is bad. If asked which bottle would you most likely choose, you would probably say bottle 2. Hence we have bad vs. good cosmetics as it pertains to their ingredients.

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