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Buying organic and watching what you eat is a good way to make sure what you’re putting into your body is clean. But if you’re overlooking what you put “on” your body, you may be missing a big source of exposure to less-than-desirable compounds.

Skin is the largest, most porous organ on our body, so it makes sense to pay attention to the chemicals we expose it to everyday. From shampoo to lotion common products can come with a big list of ingredients that are implicated in reactions as minor as a skin irritation, or as major as a link to cancer.

As always, education is your best bet when it comes to making product decisions you’re comfortable with. Fortunately, you don’t need to ditch everything you own, or get a master’s in chemistry to understand the ingredient lists on the back of your favorite products.

Consumer safety advocate, The Environmental Working Group, is the gold standard for quick product checks. The Group’s “Skin Deep Database” ranks thousands of products on a low medium and high hazard scale.

According to the EWG:

  • Personal care products: “are manufactured with 10,500 unique chemical ingredients, some of which are known or suspected carcinogens, toxic to the reproductive system or known to disrupt the endocrine system.”
  • No premarket safety testing is required: “the FDA does no systematic reviews of safety, instead authorizing the cosmetics industry to self-police ingredient safety through its Cosmetics Ingredient Review panel.”
  • When risky chemicals are used in cosmetics, the stakes are high: “Cosmetic ingredients do not remain on the surface of the skin. They are designed to penetrate, and they do. Do the concentrations at which they are typically found pose risks? For the most part, those studies have not been done. But a small but growing number of studies serve as scientific red flags.”

The EWG’s stated mission is to “learn about the safety of ingredients in personal care products.” The organization scores only chemicals that have been tested, assigning risk levels on a scale of 1 to 10. The database also contains information on compounds that are restricted in other countries like Japan, Canada and EU member countries.

Check out the Skin Deep Database here: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/#.WcWn4ciGPZs

 

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