How Hazardous Are The Ingredients In Your Beauty Products?

There's an app for that.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to the press opening for a natural beauty pop-up called Green+Good, from the Toronto-based beauty buffs behind Fresh Faced and Health Hut. Located inside a boutique hotel in the west end, everything in the market was cruelty-free. I was in heaven!

The team behind Green+Good also put together a little presentation about natural beauty and why it's a healthier alternative to chemical- and synthetic-based product lines. I’m not fully on team all-natural, but I’m definitely into making educated choices about what I put on and in my body. There was a lot of talk about hormones, health, the environment, and toxins, but the part that really stuck with me was the introduction of the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) beauty app, Skin Deep.

A searchable database created by the EWG, which does research and advocacy in areas such as toxic chemicals, Skin Deep provides ingredient information for over 68,000 different beauty products. You can search products by name or barcode and the app will retrieve the ingredient list, explain what each ingredient actually is, and display its individual "hazard score." Product pages also give an overall toxicity risk score and a graph with ratings from low to high for ingredient risks such as cancer, allergies, and developmental toxicity.

I took the app for a spin and found a few pros and cons. Unfortunately, in my experience with Skin Deep, the database is full of mostly drugstore items. Searches for brands like Chanel and Hermes brought up scant results. Also, the data on a given product was sometimes limited. But I still loved being able to check if a product was cruelty-free, and the app is certainly convenient to have on hand while shopping.

Here’s what I found out about some of my favorite products:

Deborah Lippmann’s Boom Boom Pow Nail Polish [Skin Deep Results]Hazard Score: 2

As a nail polish, I assumed this product would have a high hazard rating, but it only scored a two. The most dangerous ingredient in this polish is FD&C blue, a petroleum-based dye that's rated a three (still only a moderate threat).

Rodin Olio Lusso Luxury Face Oil [Skin Deep Results]Hazard Score: 2

I’ve had a sample of this legendary product kicking around for a few months. (I'm scared to fall in love with it and max out my credit card.) I figured I might as well give it a tox-screen before rubbing it all over my face. Skin Deep gives it a relatively safe hazard score of two, even though three ingredients on the list posed a moderate risk: benzyl benzoate, linalool, and jasmine oil.

Tocca Crema Da Mano Luxe in Giulietta [Skin Deep Results]Hazard Score: 5

I must admit, I was surprised to see this delicious, green apple- and tulip-smelling cream hit a hazard score of five, a moderate risk with high allergy concerns. But when I dug deeper, it made sense: Tocca uses parfum (as most fragrance companies do), which is no bueno for those with fragrance sensitivity or allergies. The EWG gives parfum a hazard score of eight.

Karl Lagerfeld Kapsule Floriental Eau de Toilette Spray [Skin Deep Results]Hazard Score: 8

As expected, this fragrance got a high hazard score. A cocktail of citral, coumarin, and a whole bunch of other highly rated ingredients, this EDT (which smells like a magical garden, btw) was given an eight.

Overall, the warnings in the Skin Deep app are a bit too vague for my needs, and the EWG's stance on chemicals is a little intense. Some ingredients assessed by the organization are simply labeled "cancer." But it's nice to have access to information that's otherwise difficult for consumers to get ahold of. I'll probably use the app, but I'll definitely take its warnings with a grain (or three) of salt.

Would you use this app? Kevin, weigh in here!