A friend just asked me about the safety of ingredients in a product that claims to enhance eyelashes (http://www.dermstore.com/lp/2268). Even though I’m a chemist, I still find it difficult to interpret product labels for safety of ingredients and can imagine how frustrating this is for people who simply want to know about the safety of products they apply to their bodies.
I decided to use this as an example for how you can figure these things out. To begin with, I checked to see whether the product was on EWG’s SkinDeep Cosmetics Database (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep). It wasn’t, drat.
So I then checked the Database for each ingredient’s hazard score. Of the 27 ingredients listed for the product, all but one were in the Database (I’ve listed the individual ingredient scores below if you’re interested). Of these, the majority (17) had hazard scores of zero, which indicates that they were not considered hazardous based on available information. That was good news. And it wasn’t until the 16th ingredient on the label that a score above zero was listed. Only one ingredient, phenoxyethanol, had a score in the moderately hazardous range and it was 21st on the list of ingredients, meaning that it was present in low concentrations in the product.
That left one ingredient not listed in the Cosmetics Database. Chlor phenoxyethanol was the 22nd ingredient on the list and appears to have been added as a preservative to inhibit bacterial growth. I decided to look further to see what I could find out. After much searching on Google, I found nothing to answer my question about this ingredient’s toxicity. I actually didn’t even find the chemical in the top results of the search. So I shifted to EPA’s Aggregated Computational Toxicology Resource (http://actor.epa.gov/actor/faces/ACToRHome.jsp) and found – nothing – on its toxicity. Sigh…
This is a place many of us are familiar with. And while I am painfully aware that few chemicals have been adequately tested before they are added to consumer products, it is still frustrating to be unable to fully answer my friend’s question about this product’s safety. I can only hope that this will change so that it isn’t such a chore to figure out how safe a product is to use. Or better yet, that the use of toxic chemicals in consumer products will end sometime soon.
Bottom line, I will tell my friend that most ingredients appear to be safe and of the two lower-concentration ingredients, one is moderately hazardous and that I don’t know about the safety of the other.
Would love to hear your thoughts!
Wishing you good health,
Here’s the list of ingredients and their scores on the Cosmetics Database:
Ingredients that had scores EWG’s score Supporting Data
Aqua/Water/Eau 0 robust
Glycerin 0 fair
Butylene Glycol 0 – 1 limited
Pterocarpus Marsupium Bark Extract 0 no data
Myristoyl Pentapeptide-17 0 no data
Apigenin 0 fair
Glutamic Acid 0 fair
Biotinoyl Tripeptide-1 0 no data
Octapeptide-2 0 no data
Panthenol 0 limited
Mannitol 0 fair
Biotin 0 fair
Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil 0 fair
Oleanolic Acid 0 fair
Disodium Succinate 0 fair
Sodium Oleate 2 limited
PPG-26-Buteth-26 2 limited
PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil 3 limited
Cellulose Gum 0 fair
Hydrogenated Lecithin 2 limited
Phenoxyethanol 4 limited
Chlor Phenoxyethanol not listed
Chlorphenesin 2 limited
Sodium Benzoate 3 fair
Sodium Citrate 0 fair
Potassium Sorbate 3 limited
Disodium EDTA 0 fair
Scores for ingredients range from 0 – 10 overall, with values from 0 to 2 indicating a low hazard, values from 3 to 6 likely a moderate hazard, and those from 7 to 10 considered highly hazardous. The strength of information supporting these scores also ranges from no data available to a robust amount. For more information on how EWG determines the score for ingredients, check out their website at http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/site/about.php.