Easy Sustainability Answers

What are the chemicals in cosmetics and beauty products? How safe is my nail polish?

Adriene Hill Sep 8, 2010

There are hundreds of chemicals in beauty products–some of which are bad for you and bad for the environment.

The Environmental Working Group created a cosmetics database where you can search by product, ingredient or company. They rank products on a scale of 0-10 (where 10 is the most hazardous). My Opi nail polish scores OK-it gets a 4, making it safer than most. My fancy Dior mascara is not so good. The group gives it an 8.

You can find the groups shopper’s guide to safe cosmetics here.

Whole Foods has also set its own standards for products it will sell with its Premium Body Care label. The company identified 300 ingredients it deemed to be unacceptable, including: parabens and phthalates. The full list is here.

Sephora‘s natural products standard is less rigorous. The full requirements are online here. Among them–products labeled as natural are formulated to exclude a minimum of six of these eight ingredients: GMOs (genetically modified organisms), parabens, petrochemicals, phthalates, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, synthetic dyes, triclosan.

On their website Sephora says it doesn’t exclude all eight ingredient categories “because sometimes an equally effective, viable, natural alternative is not yet available.”

Photo credit: Flickr user SFriedbergPhoto.

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