If you’re into clean beauty, you’ve probably spotted a small green circle with the saying ‘EWG Verified’, but do you know what it means? EWG stands for Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that supports environmental legislation and reviews personal care products against a variety of international standards to assess their human and environmental health risks. Though criticized for scare-mongering, EWG does strive to educate on ingredient research and product safety with the intent to help consumers make informed and healthy purchasing choices.
EWG was founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.1 According to EWG’s website, its mission is to “empower you with breakthrough research to make informed choices and live a healthy life in a healthy environment.”2
Since 2003, EWG has worked to address outdated legislation, harmful agricultural practices, and industry loopholes that pose risks to human health and the health of the environment. The organization employs a team of scientists, policy experts, lawyers, and data experts to help reform broken chemical safety systems and agriculture laws in hopes to create a safer environment.
EWG’s Areas of Focus
EWG maintains six key areas of focus and research: Food and Water, Farming and Agriculture, Personal Care Products, Household and Consumer Products, Energy, and Toxic Chemicals.
Food and Water
Pesticides and other chemicals used on the food we eat and in the water we drink have led to widespread health issues. There are more than 1,000 pesticides used around the world with different toxicological effects.3 Additionally, while 91 pollutants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 60,000 chemicals are still used within the United States.4
EWG advocates for clean food and water. It maintains a Guide to Safe Drinking Water and also a Tap Water Database. It is currently beckoning consumers to sign its petition demanding that General Mills remove glyphosate from its food.
Farming and Agriculture
Industrial farming depends on large amounts of fertilizer and manure that can contain nitrate and other harmful agents. These chemicals run off the fields and contaminate rivers and lakes. Nitrate can trigger potentially toxic algal blooms in bodies of water, making them unsafe for recreation and drinking.5
Additionally, farmers live and work in conditions that can expose them to harmful substances. Often living with inadequate healthcare, farmers are at risk for acute and chronic illness. EWG is seeking state and federal solutions that will lead to safer agriculture, healthier work conditions, and better healthcare.
Personal Care Products
Personal care products are largely unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration. It’s been more than 80 years since Congress has updated the federal law designed to ensure personal care products are safe for use.6 Additionally, the FDA does not require or oversee basic safety testing of ingredients used in personal use products. Needless to say, this leaves the consumer exposed to using products that can be less than safe.
EWG maintains an extensive Skin Deep Consumer Guide to Cosmetics evaluating the safety profile of thousands of personal care products based on their ingredients. Clinical data, neurotoxicity, allergic reactions, endocrine disruption, and carcinogenicity are some of the warnings offered. Though the database has come under fire by some scientists for referencing bad research and overstating risk as well as its inability to accurately assess safety based upon actual ingredient levels in formulas (which tend to be proprietary), it still remains perhaps the most comprehensive database for personal care product safety in the world today.
Sunscreen has become a very hot topic in personal care product safety as of late. EWG maintains Sunscreen Guide to help consumers navigate and find safe sun protection.
Household and Consumer Products
Many household and consumer products can be unsafe to use regularly, such as cellphones, cleaning supplies, cookware, and food containers. Cellphones, for example, have long been blamed for radiation, and while the jury is still out on the subject, EWG helps keep consumers up to date on tips to reduce exposure.
Cleaning products can adversely affect our health and the environment due to ingredient toxicity. It’s been proven that cleaning personnel can develop lung damage similar to those who smoke 20 cigarettes a day over a 10 to 20 year period.7 Due to these issues, EWG created a Guide to Healthy Cleaning to help consumers make informed decisions.
States like California are leading the renewable energy movement by implementing policies that promote and support emission-free energy. This has caused forward-looking utility companies to move away from dangerous and expensive coal and nuclear power. Currently, EWG is working to advance the clean energy economy by harnessing expert analysis and data-driven resources to show how clean energy protects our health and the world we’re living in.
Reliance on fossil fuels has had devastating consequences to the environment and human health, so EWG has published a Guide to Solar Energy to further knowledge on this pressing issue.
EWG has advocated to eliminate toxic chemicals from food, water, clothing, and other goods, and it has also compiled a list of the most common toxic chemicals consumers come in contact with daily. Scroll to the bottom of this page to learn more.
What Does EWG Verified Mean?
The EWG Verified mark denotes products that have applied to be evaluated by the EWG research team, that meet strict criteria and safety standards, and that pay a licensing fee to use the mark in commerce. Meeting EWG’s full criteria is no easy feat.
EWG’s Standards and Criteria
Health standards in EWG’s criteria include:
- Products must provide an expiration date or a “period of time after opening.”
- Products must score a “green” in the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.
- Products cannot contain any ingredients that are listed on EWG’s “Restricted” list or “Unacceptable” list.
- Products must be fully transparent and list all the ingredients used on the label.
- Product manufacturers must develop and implement good production processes.
Companies with EWG Verified products must:
- Submit all reports of product issues or serious adverse events to the U.S. Food and Drug Association and the EWG.
- Agree that EWG can perform random product testing to ensure all products meet the EWG’s standards and criteria.
- Fully understand that the Skin Deep database is dynamic so the scoring system can change due to EWG’s “Restricted” and “Unacceptable” list being reviewed and updated annually. A phase-in period is allowed for companies to comply with the updates.
EWG’s extensive Unacceptable and Restricted ingredient lists contain thousands of materials along with reasons why they are deemed unacceptable or restricted. EWG explains the entirety of its strict criteria here.
How To Get EWG Verified
It is evident that EWG cares about human health and the environment, so products need to be very specifically qualified to join the EWG Verified program. To achieve verification, here are the steps that must be taken:
- Review the full criteria, including the unacceptable and restricted lists.
- Download and complete documents required for the application:
- Disclosure Agreement
- Product Ingredient Spreadsheet (must be completed for every product)
- Read EWG’s Safety Substantiation Notice
- Complete the Application Form
- Within 2 to 4 weeks, an update will be given. If the product is eligible to move forward in the verification process, documents will need to be submitted to prove that the product complies with applicable restrictions. Once the documents are submitted, another update on the approval of the product will be provided within 4 to 6 weeks.
- The licensing contract and master affidavit will be delivered once the product is approved.
- Once the contract is finalized, access and training on how to use the mark will be provided.
Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom™ Facial Oil is EWG Verified
Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom™ Facial Oil is EWG Verified, which means that we have met EWG’s criteria for being fully transparent with ingredients used, maintaining good manufacturing practices, and being fully committed to human health and the environment.
Herban Wisdom™ Facial Oil is made from 100% naturally-derived vegan ingredients, along with being cruelty-free, dye-free, gluten-free, paraben-free, and triple-tested. View its complete ingredient glossary on our website, and shop the Herban Wisdom™ Facial Oil here.