How to Use the EWG Skin Deep Database

Cosmetic companies have become pros at marketing products to look like they are “natural” and “safe” when they are really far from it. This is a marketing strategy known as “greenwashing.” Greenwashing makes it hard to know whether the product you are getting actually holds up to the “clean ingredient” claims it often makes on the label.

Here is an easy, fail-safe way to know if a product you are looking into or a product you currently have is chemically safe to use.

EWG Skin Deep Database

Let me introduce you to your new best friend: The Environmental Working Group (aka EWG). Specifically, their Skin Deep Database.

The EWG is a non-profit organization that specializes in research and advocacy when it comes to toxic chemicals. Their Skin Deep Database is a tool that can be used to determine if chemicals in your products are safe for use. They currently have done hazard assessments for over 70,000 products and 2,000 different brands.

The EWG rates products and ingredients by their health hazards, which make it easy to decipher which products and ingredients you should go with or avoid. If your product isn't in the system, follow the easy steps below to determine safety of any product as long as you have the ingredients list.

How to Use Skin Deep to Determine Product's Safety

You can access the Skin Deep Database here to begin. Once you are on their page, follow these steps:

Type in the name of the product you are interested in learning about in the search bar.If the product is in the database, it will show up. Press on it to learn more. Jump to the next section on how to interpret your database results.

If the product is not in the database, continue on with the following steps.

If the product is not in the database:

In the top right hand corner of the screen (underlined, next to the FAQ tab), press the “Build Your Own Report” button.If you are new to Skin Deep, they may ask you to create a log in. This is a one-time thing, so go ahead and create your log in info.Press the “Build Your Own Product Report” button.

On the next page, you will be asked to provide information about the product. The easiest way to do this is to copy and paste the information off the site of the company that makes the product. They usually provide you with the ingredients list, directions on how to use it, etc. Make sure that you input the name, type of product, directions if they are listed, and ingredients. Press “Save and Continue to Step 2” when finished.On the next page, it may ask you to make some edits to the ingredients list, such as making sure certain words aren’t included or turning commas into semicolons.

Make any adjustments needed then press “Save and Continue to Step 3”.Finally, you will be asked to select certain ingredients if the database isn’t quite sure how to interpret one or more of the ingredients you added. If you can’t find a match, just select none of the above. Press “Save and Continue to Step 4.”Press “View Your Product Report.” Read the following section to learn how to interpret your results.

H O W   T O   I N T E R P R E T   Y O U R   R E S U L T S

Hazard Score

When you receive your results, you will see a number in the left upper hand corner surrounded by either a green, yellow or red color with a number in the middle (see the below pictures for reference). These are the Hazard Scores, representing the known and suspected hazards of ingredients.

If your product shows a 1-2 surrounded by green, that’s great! It means that the ingredients in your product are very safe. When you get into the 3 and 4 range, then you will most likely be starting to expose yourself to more chemicals that have negative effects on the body. I wouldn’t use products higher than a 3 if the goal is reducing exposure to toxins.

Any number higher than 3, especially when getting into the red zone, should be avoided.

Data Availability

If you look right under the hazard score, you will see a purple box that says “Data Available.” This reflects the amount of scientific literature available on the ingredients. Some ingredients have been studied extensively. Others have not.

As you can see in the picture above, the data on these ingredients is limited. This does not mean it is a bad product, but the more evidence there is, the more you are able to trust in the safety of the product.

The best hazard score and availability rating combination is  low hazard rating (green) + high data availability. This means there has been a ton of research done on the product ingredients and they have found the ingredients are all safe.

Other Information

On the right hand side of the page, you can find information about the high, moderate and low concerns associated with the ingredients. If you scroll down to ingredient concerns (see below) you will find a list of the specific ingredients with their chemical concerns, hazard scores, and availability ratings. Click on them for more information.

EWG Verification Seal

They also have a EWG verification seal (see picture on the right), which means that that specific products has undergone a rigorous process where products must be free of ingredients of concern, fully disclose all ingredients, and follow good manufacturing practices. If a product has this seal on it, you can be assured that this is a high quality, safe product to use.

Disclaimer on Fragrance

Fragrance is given a score of 8 in the database, which is not-so-good...This is because "fragrance" or "parfum" is a catch all term for a mixture of any of 3,000+ chemicals that are combined to create that specific scent. Since it is usually considered a trade secret, companies only have to list the term "fragrance" on their product. Many of these ingredients and chemicals have harmful effects on the body.

BUT. Sometimes companies will use blends of essential oil and list it under the term natural fragrance. These are not harmful, but will sometimes make a good product look bad because the database cannot specify between natural and unnatural fragrance.

If you think the products looks good but aren't sure about what is in the fragrance mixture, you can always contact the company. I have done this multiple times for products and have found that even though their Skin Deep report may have gotten a mediocre score because of the natural fragrance listed on the label, it was still a great product.

Cosmetic Safety, Made Easy!

By now, you can see how legit this database is…

Skin Deep makes it easy to test the quality of your own products, new products, or find products with low toxic risks. I would suggest using this to find out how safe your current cosmetics and body care products are to use. If your product scores a 3 or less, keep it! If it scores a 4 or higher, then maybe it is time to start thinking about new replacement products.

Let me know if you have any questions about how to use the skin deep database! I am more than happy to help.

Try the Skin Deep Database out on one of your own products right now! Comment below what you found! Anything surprise you?