EWG is the Environmental Working Group, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1992. It participates in and advocates for comprehensive research on toxic chemicals and other potentially harmful ingredients in consumer products.
In 2004, the organization introduced its Skin Deep program – an online database of personal care product ingredients that serves as a tool for consumers to find the safest products.
Those with a Skin Deep rating of 2 or below (or “green” – based on toxicity and regulatory data) are considered the safest, most natural ingredients.
Verified is a new program the organization has implemented, taking the concept of Skin Deep even further to provide consumers with a certification right on the product packaging.
The labeling demonstrates that the product has passed the rigorous qualification process required to be accepted into the program.
To gain the EWG VERIFIED™ mark for a product, the manufacturer must provide comprehensive, detailed proof that they not only avoid specific ingredients.
Plus, use the proper manufacturing processes. They must also provide full ingredient disclosure (above and beyond required by the FDA or USDA).
These standards better equip consumers to make an appropriate purchasing decision.
Requirements of EWG VERIFIED™
Every product must meet specific eligibility criteria to receive the EWG VERIFIED™ mark.
It must be in an eligible category – baby, hair, nail, skin, makeup, and oral care products are the only acceptable types.
It must have a Skin Deep score in the green range (either a 1 or 2 out of 10).
It cannot contain an ingredient on EWG’s list of unacceptable ingredients. These include a wide variety of classifications, including the following:
Cosmetic ingredients are banned by Health Canada or the European Commission’s COSING database.
Substances are classified as carcinogens.
Fragrance chemicals prohibited by the International Fragrance Association
Materials designated by the European Union as Category 1 endocrine disruptors
Sprays or powders containing ingredients identified as sensitizing asthma genes by the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics
Chemicals listed on California’s Proposition 65 representing known carcinogens and reproductive toxins
Products must also meet restriction standards for cosmetic ingredients.
These are set forth by specific governments and other authoritative bodies, including Health Canada, the USDA, the European Union, the International Fragrance Association, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, and the Personal Care Products Council’s Cosmetics Ingredient Review.
To be EWG Verified, product labels must include full ingredient disclosure. All of the individual components of fragrance and flavor mixtures and chemicals used to coat mineral ingredients.
All ingredients used in the process of manufacturing the product must be declared. Plus, which is still present in the finished product.
Ingredients must be labeled according to standard naming guidelines, as outlined in the International Nomenclature for Cosmetics Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook.
No trademarked names may be used, and all botanical ingredients must include the scientific name as well as the chemical form – such as “extract.” Companies may choose whether to add common botanical names.
Manufacturing of Skin Care Products
Products must be manufactured according to current Good Manufacturing Practices. These include keeping records and documentation, assessing the suitability of the facilities, equipment, and raw materials, observing SOPs (standard operating procedures), reviewing and documenting complaints, adverse event reports, and voluntary recalls, and more.
Products must also pass microbial challenge tests to be considered for the EWG Verified mark.
According to EWG, the Skin Deep program will continue to operate, and all products that are applying for verification. Whether they are approved or not, they will be added to the Skin Deep database.
The complete criteria and information on how to apply for verification can be found on EWG's website.