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Skin Deep App Review: Finding Safe Personal Care Products

by Ashley Houk

Skin Deep database from Environmental Working Group (EWG) began as an online database to provide safety profiles for personal care products. Now, 8 years later EWG has launched an accompanying app that allows users to search over 70,000 products.

EWG aims to provide consumers with the power of information to protect our health and environment. Skin Deep, specifically, looks at our everyday exposure to harsh chemicals found in cosmetics and other personal care items, such as shampoos, lotions and perfumes.

Manufacturers can basically use any ingredients they want in health and beauty products. These products aren’t required to undergo any type of safety review before hitting the shelves and your shopping cart. EWG picks up the slack where government regulation falls short. Staff scientists compare ingredients listed on the labels or websites of your favorite personal products to information in toxicity and regulatory databases to determine how safe they are for our use.

Find Safe Products with Skin Deep

Once downloaded, the home screen will allow you to search by scanning a barcode or entering a product name.

Skin deep home screen

Results are shown in a list, with product ratings on the right. Ratings range from 0-10, 10 being the worst; they’re also color-coded, green to red with red being the worst.

Skin deep results

itunes.apple.com

Each item then has a list of health concerns, also rated low-high based on hazard; ingredients that have use restrictions; and an option to view ingredient lists based on their individual hazard score.

Individual ingredient hazard

Ease of Access

Although using the app is handy when you’re out shopping, EWG’s Skin Deep database also has desktop accessibility if you’re just curious while at home. The similarities between the app and website keep confusion to a minimum.

From Dermal Repair Complex and beyond, Skin Deep tracks history of searched products so that you can easily see what you’ve searched in the past, so that you aren’t scanning every barcode in the store.

Skin deep search history

You can also save your favorite products to keep track of their safety. If something you currently use doesn’t prove as safe as you’d like, this feature makes it easy to compare with alternatives you may try out.

Skin deep favorites

Skin Deep even offers tips about which ingredients to avoid and products that can cause more problems than others.

Ewg skin deep tips

Go Beyond Skin Deep

When I first started using this app, I found that many of the barcodes weren’t in the database. When this happens, Skin Deep let’s you know that the barcode has been added and could be entered into the database, but that in the meantime it may be searchable by name. When I clicked ‘search by product name’ it gave a runtime error, every time, and I’d have to kill the app and reopen to continue searching.

Accurate spelling and punctuation seem to help search results. A search for “burts bees” yields no results, while “burt’s bees” will return quite the list. Companies may have a solid product that they’ve carried for years, but occasionally they will tweak their ingredients. Luckily, Skin Deep does provide formula dates for anything that is not  100% current.

One nice feature of the desktop database that could benefit the app is the ability to narrow search criteria. Online users can choose whether they’re looking for a certain company, brand, ingredient or type of product. When trying to search for something like “24 Hour Color” or “Matte Finish” being able to specify what type of products would be helpful in quickly finding what you’re looking for, especially if a barcode search doesn’t do the trick.

Plenty of us watch what we put in our bodies, but not what we’re putting on our bodies. Skin is the bodies largest organ and chemicals that are absorbed here can affect many other aspects of how our body’s function. So, needless to say, Skin Deep will help you take the guesswork out choosing products that are better for your health and the environment.

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