I always cringe when I see people referencing the EWG’s Skin Deep database about the safety of cosmetic ingredients. Since we’ve previously written about its shortcomings (inaccuracy, incompleteness, inconsistent ratings) I won’t rehash it here. Feel free to read our EWG post.
Today, I want to write about the legitimate scientific group that is tasked with the job of reviewing cosmetic ingredients and ensuring that they are safe for use. The group is called the Cosmetic Ingredient Review board and is made up of a majority of scientists who are independent of the cosmetic industry. They review the safety data of ingredients provided and make judgments about what is safe and at what level. Since there haven’t been any significant large scale problems with the safety of cosmetic products, the system seems to be working. Chemical fearmonger groups might disagree but their complaints are not scientifically based.
While I don’t think the information in the EWG Skin Deep database is of much use, they certainly have done a good job of putting the website together. They make it easy for someone to look up a chemical and see a listing of all the studies and data that has gone into their rating. Sure the rating is misleading and doesn’t mean much but it is simple for consumers or researchers to use.
Then you take a look at the CIR website. It’s awful in comparison. Right away there are some minor problems. First, the home page is all about the organization. That’s fine and all but how is this helpful to the people who might be using the website. The information about the organization should be placed in the About page not on the front page. And the big flash animation billboards on the front are not useful at all.
The front page should be reserved for information that is useful to the user. Specifically, there should be a big obvious link to the ingredient search function. That’s why people come to the website! Sure you can get to the ingredient search from the front page but you have to search for it. Why? Why are they making it so hard to find the information that people would want?
Cosmetic ingredient data
When you do finally get around to finding the ingredient database it is extremely disappointing. I saw a recent story about Benzophenone being linked to Endometriosis and naturally I wanted to see what the CIR had published about the safety of the ingredient. According to the CosmeticsInfo website, the CIR has deemed Benzophenone safe at some level. But searching through the CIR website you would never know it.
Go to the CIR website and do a search for Benzophenone.
Then try to find any data on the ingredients. There is nothing! The CIR database is filled with ingredients that have no information about. Why!!? I mean the work has been done why isn’t it on their website? Or at least a summary or something. Why even have an ingredient listed if you’re not going to post the data or recommendation? It’s completely useless!
Just so I don’t sound completely negative, there are some nice features to the CIR website. You can get lots of good PDF data reports and there is also a calendar listing of upcoming meetings and the ingredients that will be discussed. All good stuff.
The CIR has the science and the credibility to make the misinformed Skin Deep database an obscure resource that no serious person uses. It will require some significant improvements to their current website and database but the science is on their side. I just hope someone at that organization has the sense to do it.