EWG launches major expansion of cosmetics science and certification programs

New focus on ingredients, scientific collaboration will take ‘clean beauty’ deeper into supply chains

WASHINGTON – The pioneering nonprofit at the forefront of the clean beauty movement for more than two decades aims to dramatically extend its influence across the personal care market with a new initiative that will, for the first time, enable cosmetics ingredient manufacturers to earn the coveted EWG VERIFIED: For Your Health certification for individual ingredients and ingredient compositions. EWG will also launch to the full personal care industry a program it has piloted with leading cosmetics companies, in which EWG scientists collaborate directly with their counterparts at cosmetics brands and with formulators to improve scores in our groundbreaking Skin Deep® cosmetics database and evaluate products to earn the EWG VERIFIED mark. 

The new programs build on Skin Deep, the popular web- and app-based consumer guide that draws more than 8 million people a year to its health ratings for 76,000 products and 9,135 ingredients. They also expand the most rigorous third-party health and safety certification program for personal care products, EWG VERIFIED, a mark now found on more than 1,800 products sold by almost 300 companies.

These programs also further EWG’s mission to educate consumers on the health and safety of the products they use every day.

Products that bear the EWG VERIFIED mark are now sold across the full range of retail channels, from small boutique brick and mortar stores to beauty emporiums, specialized personal care firms like Ulta and Sephora, big box stores like Walmart, Target, CVS, Kroger, Dollar General, Walgreens and a myriad of online outlets. 

“As EWG’s Skin Deep has revolutionized consumer awareness about cosmetics safety and EWG VERIFIED has become the premier mark for clean beauty products in recent years, cosmetics ingredient makers and formulators from around the world have asked if their ingredients and proprietary mixtures can qualify for our VERIFIED certification,” said EWG President Ken Cook.

“EWG is ready to make that happen. The goal of EWG VERIFIED Ingredients is to improve the market for clean personal care earlier in the product formulation process and deeper in the global cosmetics supply chain,” Cook said.

“Products will still have to meet the EWG VERIFIED standard to carry our mark, which applies to all of a product’s ingredients. But our VERIFIED mark will make clean ingredients easier to source and help drive innovation in key problem areas, like the need for safer options in cosmetics preservatives,” Cook added.

At the same time, EWG will open to all interested personal care companies the cosmetics science collaboration program the organization has pressure-tested for more than three years through contracts with a select group of leading firms in hair care, skin care, fine fragrance and other categories.

Through EWG Reviewed for Science, private sector scientists and formulators work directly with EWG counterparts to improve product scores in Skin Deep or to develop product formulations that can meet the rigorous criteria to earn the EWG VERIFIED mark.

“The pilot phase of EWG Reviewed for Science made very clear that leading scientists, perfumers and formulators in the private sector are eager to have deeper, direct collaboration with EWG to keep abreast of our Skin Deep ratings system, or to expedite scientific review of products that can ultimately carry the EWG VERIFIED mark into the marketplace,” Cook said.

“At the same time, EWG’s staff have gained enormous insight from private sector experts into cosmetics ingredients and the process of formulating finished, clean beauty products,” he added.

The organization will dedicate an expanded cosmetics science staff and two new leadership positions to oversee the new initiatives. EWG scientist Carla Burns, who brings years of experience with EWG VERIFIED, will become senior director of Cosmetic Science, with lead responsibility for EWG VERIFIED Cosmetics and Ingredients. Kali Rauhe has been named director of Cosmetic Science and will build on her experience with the program to lead EWG Reviewed for Cosmetics.

“The EWG VERIFIED program was created to fill the void left by our nation’s antiquated law regulating the cosmetics industry, which allows companies to bring personal care products to market without any required testing to show that they are safe,” said Burns.

“Today consumers know our mark on cosmetics is the gold standard for health and transparency and can rest easy when they see the EWG VERIFIED seal, knowing that the cosmetics meet our most stringent, industry-leading benchmarks for health,” Burns said.

“Cosmetics brands are listening to their customers and reaching out to us to consult on products that will meet our exacting standards. And ingredient manufacturers, in turn, are listening to cosmetics brands, which is why we have heard so much interest in the EWG VERIFIED Ingredients category we’re announcing today,” added Burns.

Rauhe said that expanding the EWG Reviewed for Science pilot program to the entire cosmetics industry “will allow our scientists to work with brands at every level, from product formulation to ingredient selection to consumer awareness.”

According to Rauhe, “One of the keys to a healthier product is to engage with companies before they formulate, not after. The building block for EWG Reviewed is EWG’s proprietary Formulator Assistance Tool, or FaST.”

With FaST reports, formulators receive an in-depth analysis of their product and its ingredient scores. Companies can then make changes to a formula during product development, to improve scores in EWG’s Skin Deep database or meet the uncompromising standards that make EWG VERIFIED the industry’s gold standard.

“In 2020, our team of researchers reviewed the ingredients of more than 23,000 products for inclusion in our various consumer databases,” said Rauhe. “Each week, hundreds of products are submitted from companies that want them rated and added to our databases. And as of today, more than 1,800 products have earned our EWG VERIFIED mark.”  

In addition to new staff positions EWG will add to assist Burns and Rauhe, both the VERIFIED and Reviewed cosmetics programs will continue to be supported by an in-house team of senior scientists – including toxicologists and chemists – to scrutinize every ingredient in each product, including Thomas Galligan, Ph.D., David Andrews, Ph.D., Alexis Temkin, Ph.D and Tasha Stoiber, Ph.D.

“Over the years, copycat for-profit product rating outfits have sprung up that ape EWG’s Skin Deep’s cosmetics ratings system and EWG VERIFIED program, in order to cash in on consumer interest in healthy personal care,” said EWG’s Cook.

“The product assessment criteria and procedures at these businesses are a black box, staff scientific capacity is threadbare to nonexistent, and cosmetics companies regularly tell us how easy it is to meet the ‘standards’ of these profit-making firms compared to the rigors of the nonprofit EWG VERIFIED third-party certification,” Cook said, adding, “Discerning consumers and cosmetic companies know the difference.” 

Even as the organization expands EWG VERIFIED product offerings and continually updates products and ratings in its Skin Deep cosmetics database, Cook said EWG’s new initiatives mark a turning point in the nonprofit’s long-term goal of centering the global cosmetics industry on ever-improving, science-driven clean beauty standards. 

“For EWG, clean beauty is found at the intersection of transparency and health,” Cook said. “We have relentlessly pursued those attributes with our science, consumer guides and aggressive advocacy to reform cosmetics policy, and by doing so we have played an outsized role in defining clean beauty.

“By launching EWG VERIFIED Ingredients and opening EWG Reviewed for Science to the entire industry, we’re taking our commitment to the next level. We’re confident that both consumers and companies will benefit,” he added.

EWG VERIFIED and Reviewed programs are also available for diapers and cleaning products.

For companies interested in learning more about EWG Reviewed for Science, please contact us here.


The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and our independent, health-based product and environmental standards, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

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