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EWG-Verified

You can tell at a glance whether your granola is certified organic or fair trade—and it may soon be just as easy to vet whether your mascara is as clean as it claims to be.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has announced the launch of the EWG Verified program, designed to recognize the crème de la (face) crème of healthy personal care products. Until now, the non-profit’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database has been the go-to resource for label translation—products in the database are assigned a color rating and a points score (with 1–2 being the best) based on how safe the ingredients on their packages are. (For the color rating, green would be the least sketchy.)

But EWG Verified takes things a step further, looking not just at the ingredient lists, but also at what’s not on the package (like the specific formulations of fragrances), preservatives (side note: they’re necessary), manufacturing practices, and more.

Now someone is actually evaluating the ingredients for you

“The EWG Verified program provides a lot more information about products, helping us to assess them on an even greater level than we are able to do with Skin Deep,” says Nneka Leiba, EWG’s deputy director of research.

EWG Verified provides a tool for the consumer that’s so desperately needed—one that simply and clearly demonstrates whether a product is safe and healthy

Take those fragrances we just mentioned, for instance. “Fragrance is a vague term used to describe a mixture of ingredients, some of which are potent endocrine disruptors,” says Leiba. “To become EWG Verified, a company must be transparent about all of its ingredients and not use vague terms that hide ingredients. Consumers can trust that a product that is EWG Verified has completely disclosed all of its ingredients, and therefore they can make a fully informed decision that the product is right for them.”

Right now, only cosmetics and hair, skin, nail, oral, and baby products are being considered, though there are plans to expand into other areas, including cleaning products, in the future.

Getting the EWG’s gold star isn’t exactly a breeze—brands have to submit a litany of paperwork and documentation, and the cost ranges from hundreds to thousands of dollars a year, based on things like company size and number of verified products. (All revenue goes toward future EWG research and consumer initiatives.)

A new seal of approval for non-toxic beauty products

Once a brand is finally given the okay, it will be cleared to use the EWG Verified seal for use on its packaging, in marketing, and at retail for three years, after which they’ll have to reapply. So far, 118 items have made the cut, including goods from Beautycounter, W3ll People, and MyChelle.

According to James Walker, co-founder of toxin-free cosmetics brand W3LL People, the process (which he calls “beyond intense”) is well worth it. “EWG Verified provides a tool for the consumer that’s so desperately needed—one that simply and clearly demonstrates whether a product is safe and healthy,” he says. “We all want to make better choices, but we’re time-starved. We may not be invested enough to go deep. And now we don’t have to…if you see the EWG Verified badge, you know that product has been tested beyond compare, and at least from a basic toxicity perspective, you’re good.”

And judging by the response so far, the program could impact much more than the packaging of natural beauty brands. “We’ve heard from some companies that are already starting to reformulate or relabel their products to meet the mark’s rigorous standards,” says Leiba. “EWG is certain we will continue to push the personal care market towards healthier products.”

If it makes natural beauty shopping easier—AKA less time scrutinizing labels and more time putting together new amazing looks—we’ll give that our stamp of approval.

You probably won’t be seeing the EWG Verified label on too many drugstore products—this terrifying study claims many of them contain nasty hormone disruptors. But there’s hope! Check out what some of the most brilliant minds in natural beauty had to say about the future of the industry.