burts-bees-epocreme.jpgAs we get ready for winter, skin care is critical. We must have moisturizer and moisturizing cleansers. They don’t have to be expensive or exotic. But we’d like to think they’re effective and safe. So how to make sure what you’re slathering on your face won’t come back to haunt you? You could read a bazillion fine print labels or…you could look up your preferred potion on the cosmetics database called Skin Deep put together by the Environmental Working Group. This handy tool compares the ingredients in some 25,000 products against 50 toxicity and regulatory databases. The EWG says Skin Deep is the largest such integrated database of its kind.

They built it out of frustration that the Federal Drug Administration doesn’t require companies to test many of these ingredients. Companies do risk the wrath of consumers if they don’t produce safe products. But many long term effects of skin care creams may not be apparent right away. (Look at how sunscreen recently morphed from protector to potential hazard.) My daily moisturizer, Neutrogena Visibly Firm, turned out to be firmly lodged in the “hazard” category rating a seven on Skin Deep’s 1-10 rating scale (with 10 being the worst), mainly due to the added sunscreen element. But several low toxic alternatives by Neutrogena (Norwegian Formula 24-hour moisturizer) and others also popped up. Burt’s Bees Primrose Night Cream, marketed as pure and natural, turned up as a comforting low-toxicity two. Most of its ingredients were listed as safe, except for some concerns about the tocopheryl acetate and the lavender oil it contains. Oy, Skin Deep is deep.

Barbara Kessler