When it comes to choosing organic skin care brands suited best for your skin and health, it's important to find a skin care company that is transparent with ingredients and policies. Sally B's Skin Yummies is dedicated to full transparency, which is why they were among the first few companies to earn the Environmental Working Group's EWG VERIFIED™ Mark.
Recently we discussed why, as a company, we were currently not pursuing USDA Organic Certification for our products. What we couldn’t tell you, was that around the same time we wrote that blog, an important verification program was being developed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG): EWG VERIFIED: FOR YOUR HEALTH™. When the program was announced last Fall, we jumped at the chance to submit our products (and heaps and heaps of other information). We have been huge fans of the EWG and their work to protect human health and the environment through research, unbiased testing, advocacy, and education. They strive to increase transparency in the marketplace and highlight the many weak standards that govern consumer products. For example, the U.S. government does not require safety testing on personal care items before they hit the store shelves. Companies can use almost any ingredient – including potentially harmful ones – in their products.
This mission, which we believe in so much, is the foundation of EWG VERIFIED™ program, so for us, this mark is a powerful one to place on our products.
Seeing the EWG VERIFIED™ mark means that a product avoids the EWG’s ingredients of concern, and the company is committed to full transparency and operates under good manufacturing practices. The product also:
- Meets EWG’S strictest criteria for transparency and health,
- Avoids ingredients that authoritative health bodies have flagged for potential health concerns,
- Has labeling that fully discloses its ingredients,
- Uses adequate preservatives,
- Is free of contaminants, and
- Uses a manufacturer that follows good manufacturing practices.
The EWG VERIFIED™ mark will help shoppers quickly and easily identify personal care products, including cosmetics, which meet EWG’s strictest standards while shopping in stores and online. Items bearing the mark must score in the “green” range in EWG’s Skin Deep® cosmetics database and meet additional criteria set by EWG scientists.
We are excited to announce that some of our products have passed the rigorous verification process and have earned the right to bear the EWG VERIFIED™ mark. You will soon see the seal on our product label, but can already find it on the product listing on our website. Just look for the mark!
We're honored to be one of 12 companies to help kick start this important verification. We will continue to uphold the standards of the EWG VERIFIED™ program and work towards verification for the rest of the Sally B’s product line. In the meantime, you can learn more about EWG VERIFIED™ by visiting: www.ewg.org/ewgverified
When searching for organic skin care brands it is important to self-police the product options. The first step is understanding how to read an ingredient label:
One of the most essential lessons in becoming your own expert is how to read an ingredient label. As we’ve mentioned before, marketing claims on a product do not have to tell you the whole truth, so an ingredient label is the best indication as to the safety of a product. Yet, ingredient labels are packed with hard-to-pronounce, unrecognizable names making it tough to know what you’re buying! We understand your frustration and help break down the standards and regulations behind product labeling so you can be a more confident shopper.
INCI Labeling Standards
In the United States, as well as Canada, EU, Australia, and Japan, it is required that all manufacturers of personal care products use INCI language to list their ingredients. INCI stands for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients and is a uniform labeling system designated by the Personal Care Products Council. INCI successfully establishes a single ingredient labeling name for each ingredient, which promotes a common understanding throughout the world.
While manufacturers around the world may recognize INCI language, little education is offered to consumers about the hard-to-pronounce names that appear on your product packaging. For instance, did you know that Butyrospermum Parkii is simply Shea Butter? And Avocado Oil is Persea Gratissima.We certainly don’t expect you to memorize all the INCI names (a quick Google search will tell you what is what), but we do want you to be aware that they exist. We recently had a customer post a review about our Antioxidant Skin Boost, claiming that it did not contain Hyaluronic Acid like we promised on our website. If we were able to respond to her we would have told her that the INCI name for Hyaluronic Acid is Sodium Hyaluronate. Luckily a customer who read the review contacted us for clarification. She became her own expert.
FDA ingredient List Requirements
Beyond the INCI requirement, the FDA also has rules governing the ingredient label and in what order the ingredients must appear. The general rule is that ingredients must be listed in descending order of predominance. This means that if the product formula contains more Tamanu Oil than it does essential oil, like in our Tamanu Luxury Organic Facial Cleanser, the Tamanu Oil would be placed first or before the essential oil. However, there are a few exceptions to this requirement:
- Active drug ingredients. If the cosmetic product is also a drug the active drug ingredients must be declared first or before the listing of the cosmetic ingredients. It is also mandatory that the drug ingredients be labeled with “Active Ingredients” and the cosmetic ingredients that follow be labeled with “Other Ingredients,” in descending order of predominance of course
- Ingredients with less than 1% concentration. Ingredients present at a concentration less that 1% may be listed in any order after the listing of the ingredients present at more than 1% in descending order of predominance.As an important side note, we urge you to not discount ingredients that have a low percentage. Just because an ingredient appears at the end of the list, it doesn't mean it's less effective. Also, toxic ingredients at any percentage can be hazardous to your health.
- Color additives.Color additives of any concentration may be listed in any order after the listing of the ingredients, which are not color additives.
- And Other Ingredients. Ingredients that are trade secrets do not need to be disclosed on the label. In lieu of declaring the name of that ingredient, the phrase "and other ingredients" maybe be used at the end of the ingredient list.
In addition to proprietary ingredients falling under the “all other ingredients” loophole, any fragrance or flavor ingredients used can simply be listed as “fragrance” and “flavor” on the label. This concerns us because any number of potentially toxic ingredients can fall under “fragrance.”Even more unnerving is that masking agents (an ingredient used to mask the undesirable smell of an ingredient) do not necessarily need to be listed at all. Again, these masking agents could be potentially toxic ingredients.
How to Spot a Toxic Product Without Having to Memorize INCI language:
- Scan the ingredients for toxic red flag warnings, like fragrance (phthalates) and artificial colors (carcinogens). If those are in the mix, there is a good chance other toxic ingredients are in there, too.
- Avoid products that contain ingredients that start with Ethyl-, Methyl-, Butyl-, or Propyl-, which tend to be parabens and glycols.
- Not sure what ingredient goes with which INCI name? Pull out your smart phone and do a quick Google search!
- Download the EWG’s wallet-sized “Shopper’s Guide to Safe Cosmetics” and keep on hand for quick reference.
And lastly, it’s important to know that while its required for all ingredients to be listed on packaging labels, it is not required for them to be listed on a manufacturer’s website. We promise that we will always list all of our ingredients on both our website and our product packaging, though we list the common ingredient name on our website. While it’s hard to determine whether or not a company has listed all their ingredients, if you become suspicious that they might have left something off you may have to go to a store to read the actual label or do some additional research on the EWG’s Skin Deep Database. They have tested over 70,000 products and will list all ingredients and highlight any of concern.Also, when looking for the best organic skin care brands it is helpful to know lesser known skin care contaminants so you can shop smart:
Parabens, phthalates, and lead have become the poster ingredients of the non-toxic skin care message. These ingredients pose serious health risks and are commonly used in a number of skin care and makeup products. However, simply looking for these ingredients on a product label is not enough to keep you and your family safe. A label might say “paraben free,” but a number of toxic ingredients could still be lurking within the product formulation.
We highlight five commonly used, but lesser talked about, toxic ingredients so you can be a more conscious consumer in the skin care aisle.
The Concern: A known carcinogen and a petroleum byproduct, mineral oil is a commonly used ingredient in lips balms, lotions, and creams. According to John Hopkins University, it is the number 2 cause of aging. By creating an impermeable layer on the outside of skin it dehydrates the skin and slows the rate of cell reproduction and rejuvenation. This layer also keeps the skin from breathing, blocks toxins from leaving the skin, and clogs pores.What Should I Use Instead: Mineral Oil is easy to spot on an ingredient label. It is usually written as Mineral Oil and occasionally as Paraffinum Liquidum. So avoid anything containing this ingredient and choose products that use healthy alternatives like coconut oil.
The Concern: Linked to hormone disruption, brain damage, cancer, and environmental concerns, Tricolosan is a common ingredient in hand sanitizer and liquid hand soap. Studies have shown it to be present in breast milk, as well as 75% of human tissue samples taken. Despite its widespread use, the chemical has not undergone the necessary safety testing to actual deem it safe.
Not only a threat to our personal health, it also poses serious risk to our waterways because it is so commonly washed down the drains of our sinks. When exposed to sunlight in an aqueous environment Tricolosan is converted to dioxin and when combined with the chlorine in tap water forms chloroform, a known human carcinogen.
What Should I Use Instead: According to an advisory panel to the US Food and Drug Administration, tricolosan is no more effective in killing bacteria than plain soap and water. Choose hand soaps like our Foaming Hand Soap that do not contain this ingredient and are gentle. Side note: the European Union and Canada are working hard to ban this ingredient all together.
The Concern: A “probable carcinogen,” 1,4-dioxane is a byproduct of a petrochemical process called ethoxylation, which is used to reduce the risk of skin irritation for petroleum-based ingredients. After this process, 1,4-dioxane can be removed from products before they are sold, but it is a common missed step by manufacturers and there is no test to determine if it has been done. One common example of the use of 1,4-dioxane is the conversion from Sodium Lauryl Sulfate to Sodium Laureth Sulfate (the “eth” denotes the ethoxylation). While Sodium Laureth Sulfate may be a gentler ingredient, the addition of 1,4-dioxane increases concerns of organ toxicity.
What Should I Use Instead: Avoid products that use ingredients like Sodium Laureth Sulfate, PEG, Polyethylene Glycol, and others with “eth,” because these are most likely to contain impurities from 1,4-dioxane.
The Concern: Oxybenzone, an ultraviolet light absorber and uv filter, is the active ingredient in most sunscreens and SPF rated skin care products, including moisturizers and lip balm. It is easily absorbed into the skin and serves as a host assisting other ingredients through the skin and into the bloodstream. It has been flagged for its bioaccumulation, endocrine disruption, and organ system toxicity.
What Should I Use Instead: Look for sunscreen products that use Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide. These two ingredients act as physical blocks to damaging rays and are natural sun protectorates.
TALCUM POWDER aka Talc
The Concern: Talcum Powder is a wildly used ingredient found in baby powder (it’s the number one ingredient) and cosmetics, especially eye shadows, blush, bronzers, and other powder makeups. This powdered ingredient can sometimes contain a small portion of aluminum silicate and/or be contaminated with asbestos fibers, both of which pose risks for acute or chronic lung irritation or even cancer since it is so easily inhaled. Since the 1970s, Talc particles have been routinely found in the tumors of ovary and lung cancer patients. Just like other cosmetic ingredients, the federal government does not regulate cosmetic grade talc and there are no restrictions to using this ingredient.
What Should I Use Instead: Look for products made with corn starch, rice powder, or oat powder, all of which are non-toxic, moisture absorbing powders that keep skin dry.
As consumers we have become accustomed to using a lot of these ingredients - mineral oil in our lip balm, talc in our baby powder, and tricolosan in our hand sanitizers. Creating a lifestyle shift away from these can be tough, but it's an important move to make. Even though you may not have yet experienced any health repercussions from the use of these ingredients, their cumulative exposure is a serious risk. Start phasing out these ingredients by always scanning ingredient lists before you buy. It might seem like a daunting task, but your beautiful skin and good health will thank you for taking the extra few seconds to make a mindful decision.