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resources for researching ingredients and chemicals

I get lots of requests to review individual products. As you can imagine, I just don’t have time to do that, much as I would love to! I run our ecommerce business Hello Charlie full time, and I write and publish three blogs a week. On top of that, I’m a mum to two busy kids and the wife of a busy husband!

I do my very best to incorporate all your queries and suggestions into our Cheat Sheets. But this doesn’t always happen straight away, and I understand that you want your questions answered now. So I thought I’d share with you some of my ‘go to’ resources that I use when I’m researching skincare and safe ingredients.

Some of these are very technical, some not so much. If you don’t understand what you’re reading, keep googling!

Remember, I’m not a research scientist or a chemical engineer. I’m just a parent who reads and reads and reads to work out the best solutions for my family. If I can do it, so can you!

US Websites

EWG Skindeep Database


The Environmental Working Group’s Skindeep Database is a great place to start if you’re trying to find out whether the ingredients in your products are safe. There’s also a huge array of products listed in the database, but you won’t always find Australian products. Be aware, also, that US products may have different ingrdients to Australian products, due to different regulations. There is also a helpful ‘Build Your Own Report’ function where you can list the product ingredients and get a toxicity rating.

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics


This is a US website, which is a project of the Breast Cancer Fund. There’s a list of chemicals of concern; information on cosmetic regulations, both US and some international regulations; information on the science used to determine whether ingredients are safe; and lots of other easy to use information about the chemicals in your cosmetics.

Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel


This a US website, paid for by the Personal Care Products Council (a trade association), and supported by the FDA and the Consumer Federation of America. The panel reviews cosmetic ingredients by reviewing the latest scientific studies, then makes recommendations on the use of the ingredient. To use it, you need to know the INCI name and enter it into the search database. You’ll get a list of PDF reports that you can download. These are generally annual reviews of Cosmetic Ingredient Safety Assessments that you’ll have to scroll through to find what you’re looking for. It’s not the easiest system to use.

Personal Care Truth or Scare


A very useful website for giving commonsense advice. The aim of the website is education and empowerment, rather than scary ‘internet facts’ that aren’t based on science.



This is the Human and Environmental Risk Assessment on ingredients of household cleaning products. Again, it’s not the easiest to use, and it is an industry programme, but there’s some useful information on here.



Lots of information here on everyday chemicals. The information comes from the US National Library of Medicine.

Australian websites



The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) is the place to go for consumer law and competition queries.



The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulates products that are used for preventing or curing diseases, ailments or injuries. For example, the TGA regulates sunscreen in Australia, because using sunscreen prevents skin cancer. The TGA also regulates products like acne treatments and dandruff treatments, especially prescription or over the counter treatments.



NICNAS is the Australian National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme. It assesses the risks of industrial chemicals (which includes natural and synthetic cosmetic ingredients) and provides information for their safe use. Whereas the TGA regulates therapeutic goods in Australia, NICNAS regulates cosmetics and skincare products.

They regulate skincare products containing sunscreen, for example, while the TGA regulates sunscreen. NICNAS regulates moisturisers that are designed for oily and acne prone skin, but not a prescription cream to prevent or fix your acne.

Choice Magazine


I often use the Choice Magazine website. I like their approach to reviews, and often find them helpful, especially for an overview before I do more research.

European websites

European Chemicals Agency


The European Chemicals Agency is where you can find information about chemicals manufactured and imported in Europe. There’s information on chemical risks, safety and hazardous properties.



Cosing is the European Commission database on cosmetic ingredients and substances. Not the easiest to use if you’re not an expert, but can be useful all the same.

Image source: DepositPhotos

Have I forgotten any? Let me know if you’ve got other sites that you like to use for research!