My cheap trick for adding excitement to a dull day: pop into a drugstore for a makeup pick-me-up. Just knowing I have a new lipstick color or fresh bottle of mascara to try will get me out of bed without pressing snooze the next day. I’m a makeup junkie, after all. But after educating myself about potentially toxic ingredients in personal care products, I started to see the makeup aisle with more skepticism. I learned that the FDA doesn’t have much authority to regulate what goes into our cosmetics and that claims of “natural” or “organic” have no regulatory standard backing them up.
The truth is that the FDA can only take action once a dangerous product is on the market and it can prove it’s harmful to consumers. The good news? There are resources out there, like Think Dirty (available on iTunes), that help consumers understand what goes into the products we use. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group also researches environmental health issues, like pesticides, GMOs, and chemicals in consumer goods. As part of its work, EWG powers the Skin Deep database, cataloging more than 60,000 cosmetic products, giving each a ranking from one to 10. Ratings of one and two indicate a low hazard.
While many higher-end brands cater to customers looking for nontoxic makeup, you don’t need a celebrity beauty budget to get safe ingredients. Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs for EWG, explained that some retailers, including CVS, are reformulating their store brands to phase out dangerous chemicals. In addition, stores like Target are working to prohibit products with these chemicals.
“But these effort fall far short of what’s really needed — a regulator with the power to review the science and decide which chemicals are safe,” Faber warned. Until that happens, it takes a bit of effort to determine whether what you’re buying is safe.
So when I stop by a drugstore for an impulse purchase, I’m sure to do a quick search to verify the ingredients — and I’m happy to say some of my favorite products make the cut. To save you the time, here are 28 drugstore finds that get either a one or two (the best ratings) in EWG’s database. Just a note of caution: product safety ratings can vary within a brand, so it’s a good idea to check the specific item you intend to buy each time.