FK1221 asks…What do you think of the GoodGuide site and their skin care recommendations?
The Right Brain replies:
We weren’t aware of GoodGuide so maybe our readers aren’t either. For those of you not familiar with the site, they rate products based on three dimensions: Health, Environment, and Society. Check out this NY Times article on GoodGuide if you want to learn more. The site is well organized and they have collected a ton of information but we do have some concerns about the accuracy of their data. Consider these two examples: one from hair care and one from skincare.
Pantene Classic Conditioner
The overall rating for this product was a “6″ which could be cause for concern. But when you drill down into the data you see that it achieved that rating because of “adequacy of ingredient disclosure.” While this makes sense for household cleansers and other product categories that aren’t required to disclose ingredients, it makes no sense for a personal care products which must by law list all of its ingredients. One might easily dismiss this product based on the 6 rating but the actual health rating is an “8″ which means there’s little cause for concern.
Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion
The skincare example was even more problematic. We looked up Vaseline Intensive Care Total Moisture lotion and found the overall rating was 5.3 but the health rating was a 4. Apparently this rating is due to the “medium” level of concern over one of the ingredients, TEA (triethanolamine.) According to Good Guide, TEA is “suspected of causing immunotoxicity…respiratory toxicity…skin or organ toxicity… according to sources compiled by Scorecard.”
We cross checked that information with the Cosmetic Ingredient Review board (the CIR is the industry organization responsible for reviewing and assassing the safety of cosmetic ingredients and publishing the results in peer reviewed scientific literature.) Here’s what they say about TEA:
“The CIR Expert Panel has reviewed the safety of formaldehyde in cosmetics and personal care products and concluded that it was safe to a great majority of consumers but has limited the concentration to 0.2% free formaldehyde due to the skin sensitivity of some individuals to this agent. The amount of DMDM Hydantoin required to preserve a product (less than 1%) does not expose the consumer to concentrations of formaldehyde above the 0.2% limit for formaldehyde recommended by the CIR Expert Panel.
“Triethanolamine may be used in non-rinse-off and other cosmetics and personal care products at a maximum concentration of 2.5%. Triethanolamine…can [not] be used with nitrosating systems, they must have purity of 99% with a maximum secondary amine content of 0.5%, and a nitrosamine content of 50 microg/kg or less, and the products must be in nitrite-free containers.”
So, one source says TEA is a potential health problem while the other says it’s fine when used correctly. Who do you believe?
The Beauty Brains bottom line
Good Guide has pulled together a tremendous amount of information that will be helpful to many people. Their efforts to increase company transparency are particularly laudable. But, it appears their assessments of ingredient safety doesn’t always match the expert opinion published by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review board. If you’re concerned about any chemical that MIGHT have adverse health effects, even though the best science to date does not indicate any problems, then Good Guide will help you steer clear of product containing those ingredients.
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