EWG Cries Racial Injustice Over Product Safety

Last week, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) once again stoked the flames of fear with pseudoscience.

The group’s latest update to its Skin Deep Cosmetics Database identified 1 in 12 products marketed to African American women as being “highly hazardous,” with fewer than one fourth receiving a “low hazard” rating.

Considering the average woman owns 40 different makeup products – a value that doesn’t even begin to consider hair, nail or body products – women have a lot riding on the safety of their cosmetics. African American women in particular account for up to 22% of the personal care products market, which suggests African American women devote more of their spending to beauty as compared to other demographics.

EWG is no stranger to exploiting fear, but it’s most recent attempt to construct a narrative of a cosmetics industry which targets specific consumers for harm is wildly inaccurate and irresponsible.

The Skin Deep database ranks products by the “hazard” of their ingredients. The problem is, EWG’s assumption of hazard isn’t based on science.

For example, “fragrance” pulls in a rank of 8/10 on the badness scale, so that any product containing “fragrance” immediately gets a knock. However, “fragrance” on a product label doesn’t refer to one chemical, or even a class of chemicals. Evaluating the arbitrary label on the basis of hazard betrays EWG’s systemic fear of man-made ingredients.

If that doesn’t convince you, this should: EWG allows companies which score well on their list to use the “EWG Verified” seal of approval for marketing purposes. So the more they scaremonger, the more customers are drawn to products with EWG’s own stamp of approval.

While EWG continues scaring consumers away from their bathroom cabinets, know that since 1938 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has had the authority to require every cosmetic product and its ingredients be substantiated for safety before being put on the market, and that those products’ labels provide accurate information. This goes for cosmetics marketed to people of all races, genders, and degrees of scientific knowledge.

As we always try to convey: the dose makes the poison. And as far as EWG’s Skin Deep database goes, the pseudoscience is definitely off the charts.