Skin Deep chronicles the world of killer cosmetics

Skin Deep may show that the makeup around this eye is hazardous

Beauty is skin deep: The Skin Deep database alerts consumers to the toxic chemicals and carcinogens used to manufacture beauty products. Flickr photo.

Skin Deep is a cosmetic safety database designed to let you know whether your makeup is killing you. Created by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the  Skin Deep database  gives cosmetic products hazard scores based on independent research by the EWG group on product ingredients. Before you spend money now, check out Skin Deep product categories including makeup, skin, hair, eyes, nails, oral care, sun protection and baby products. The Skin Deep web site at also invites users to register and write product reviews.

Beauty is Skin Deep

The Skin Deep database was created because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has scant authority to regulate the ingredients in beauty products. The government expects the cosmetic industry to be self-regulating when it comes to protecting the health and safety of consumers. Scientists making extra cash from the The Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA) sit on the Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel (CIR) and are responsible for the safety of the industry’s products. Skin Deep states nearly 90 percent of ingredients in cosmetics haven’t been studied by the industry’s own safety panel.

Skin Deep: taking up FDA slack

An EWG analysis found that the CIR has reviewed the safety of 13 percent of 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products in the past 30 years. The FDA has no safey review system. That means that nearly 90 percent of ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by any publicly accountable institution. Skin Deep says people use up to 126 unique chemical ingredients on their skin every day.

The Skin Deep database

The Skin Deep database rates cosmetic products by their hazards for frequent users. Product ratings include hazard scores and dangers linked to their use. Dangers include cancer, developmental toxicity levels, allergens, irritation warnings and many others. The hazard score is based on a product’s known and suspected hazards on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the most hazardous. A “data gap” percentage accompanies the hazard rating, based on how much is currently unknown about the ingredients.

Skin Deep cosmetic carcinogens

In 2004, the EWG conducted a study on the safety of beauty care products. Comparing approximately 10,000 ingredients found in 7,500 different products against lists of known and suspected chemical health hazards. Only 28 had been evaluated for safety by the CIR. The EWG found that one in every 120 products analyzed contained ingredients certified by the government as known or probable carcinogens.  Skin Deep helps cosmetics users protect themselves from the 54 products EWG found that violated recommendations for safe use that the CIR had put in place. The worst offenders contained the carcinogens coal tar, alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids, and those containing the hormone-disrupting ingredient, phthalate. Skin Deep says that today you can still buy these products.

The beauty of Skin Deep

Skin Deep shows you that beauty products are often anything but. Your skin is your body’s largest organ. If you’re going to spend cash today on cosmetics, Skin Deep will help you learn more about how to protect the skin you are in.

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