Skin Deep Continues Despite Compact's Close by Silvia Milanova, July 25 2011, 0 Comments

Woman & Makeup BrushesIf you’re like most eco-conscious and healthy individuals, you usually not only look at the ingredients on what goes into your body, but also what goes onto it. Lotions, body washes, lipsticks, eye shadows, you name it – most beauty products out there contain chemicals. But thanks to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), consumers have a way of finding out just what is lurking in those tubes, bottles and tubs. (If you’re still wary about believing these toxins are for real, click here...with caution.)

Since 2004, the EWG has frequently updated their extensive Skin Deep cosmetics database, which harbors 68,032 products from 2,868 brands, and rates them from 0-10, depending on their ingredients and data availability, (low, moderate, high hazard).

The database includes products from companies that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics (the Compact) - created by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. The campaign is meant to give support and guidance to companies which comply with the Compact. Before signing the Compact, companies need to meet the following criteria:

1) Comply with the EU Cosmetics Directive
2) Disclose all ingredients
3) Publish and regularly update product information in EWG's Skin Deep database
4) Comply with ingredient prohibitions and restrictions under the Compact for Safe Cosmetics and substitute ingredients of concern with safer alternatives
5) Substantiate the safety of all products and ingredients with publicly available data
6) Participate in the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

Since the government currently does NOT regulate what goes into cosmetic products, the Compact acted as a useful resource to all.
“In the absence of any real government regulation, the Compact has played an important role in shifting this industry toward safer cosmetics and giving consumers information they need to find healthier products for their families,” said Shannon Coughlin, Communications Director at the Breast Cancer Fund and spokesperson for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

However, a recent announcement has informed users of the site that the Compact is coming to an official end this summer. More than 1,500 companies have signed the compact over its 7-year existence, and that number was a lot higher than the EWG expected.
“We have been amazed by the number companies that have signed the Compact, and it has been challenging for us – a coalition of nonprofit organizations – to manage the volume of data and communication required to publicly reflect company efforts to meet this pledge,” said Coughlin.

Regardless of the Compact discontinuing its acceptance of new members, the Skin Deep database and the effort to influence companies to make safer products is continuing. In the last few months alone, due to the Compact’s ending, more companies have come forward and reached full compliance with the Compact. The list of those signers will be published in the coming months. “Then we will be able to focus on more meaningful engagement of companies who share the Campaign’s goals of increasing cosmetics safety, transparency and public education," said Coughlin.

Safe Cosmetics Logo 2Jennifer Barckley, former Director of Communications for Weleda, an eco-counscious cosmetics company and an early signee of the Compact and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Pact, agrees that the Compact has brought a lot of awareness to the critical issue of truly safe cosmetics. "However, the Compact is just one piece of the entire Campaign for Safe Cosmetics," says Barckley. "Because the complete initiative is centered around integrity and authenticity, it is crucial that the Compact be able to ensure its signees are in compliance. As I understand it, this has proved very challenging to do, leaving the Campaign to rely on the self-reporting of brands. So, it makes sense that they close the Compact piece of the campaign to focus on their greater mission--to help transform an industry."

In addition, companies which have signed the Compact and even those that haven’t, can still engage in an effort to create safer products for consumers. The Campaign has created a new Business Network, which invites retailers, cosmetics companies, spa and salon owners, and other members of the beauty industry, to join in “supporting the Campaign’s mission and working with us to stimulate the innovation of the safe, non-toxic personal care products that the world market is demanding; protect consumers, workers and the environment from exposure to chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive harm and other adverse health impacts; and ensure everyone in the U.S. has access to safe personal care products, regardless of geography and income.”

For small companies like us, which rely on resources such as the Compact and the Skin Deep database, the information out there will remain unchanged and will continue to be frequently updated. In addition to that, the closing of the Compact will allow the organization and its workers to finalize and publish the full-compliance list, which could be very helpful to companies such as EcoPlum and readers alike. People will be able to make decisions about their purchases from credible companies that they can trust. We have used the Skin Deep database for numerous article resources and will continue to do so.

Our very own Chryso D’Angelo uses Skin Deep for her monthly eco friendly beauty column and relies on its accuracy and thoroughness (hopefully to be improved in the coming months with the full-compliance list) to also make smart decisions about what to recommend to our readers. Although there have been claims out there that the Skin Deep database is flawed and the guidelines to join the Compact are too strict and limiting on ingredient possibilities, this is one of the best resources out there. If the government isn't going to regulate what could go into a product, then someone might as well monitor that and inform us if there is the slightest possibility for side effects (including cancer). At EcoPlum, we value those who take the time to make a change and influence others to do the same.

So, no matter what your outlook is on eco friendly products, how worried you are about your night cream giving you cancer, or if you have the time to do something about it or not, the one thing you can do, is to at least be informed and educated on the topic. The EWG's Skin Deep Database and their efforts for a greener future, are a good place to start!