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Ingredient rating website considerations

A Love-Hate Relationship with Rating

Makeup and skincare rating databases are a valuable resource when researching ingredients and comparing different products on the market. These resources are quite handy, and if a person is allergic to any specific ingredient it’s especially helpful.

The challenge with some product rating sites, though, is the purpose behind the site. Most sites that provide information are commercially oriented and in order to commoditize their site, sponsorship, affiliations, and licensing are used as a way to earn money from their postings paid by makeup and skincare companies that ultimately are being promoted by the ratings. Most sites stand by accurate information, but as a consumer it is important to keep your eyes open when researching information.  

Sponsorships and affiliations

Sites rating and guiding consumers often incentivize companies or work out affiliation relationships with them, whether directly to their site or a third party shopping source (e.g., Amazon). This works in both companies' favor but we believe consumers should know, explicitly, very obviously, which products and companies are sponsoring their posts, features, and rankings. 

Profiting from licensing

There are more and more badges and symbols coming out to ascertain products' purity. 

Unfortunately, some sites seems more concerned about their Amazon Affiliate sales than they do about consumer safety. After all, why would they put an affiliate link to a product they rate as the worst of the worst?

If you review sites closely, you'll see examples of natural titled products with a rating of 10, a score reserved for the most dangerous products that can be found in the sites database (according to them). But if you click on the picture they’ll be happy to have you buy the product through their affiliate program. The question arises, if a product was this dangerous how could the rating site possibly encourage people to buy it?

Ratings based on nothing

One of the improvements recently added to a popular site's database was an additional rating of the quality of data supporting the safety rating. This is understandable since ratings based on single studies are much weaker than ratings based on lots of studies. However, this does not seem to affect the way they rate ingredients.

For example, how can an ingredient like HYDROGENATED PALM GLYCERIDES get a zero rating? A zero rating is the most safe you can score. They admit that this rating is based on no data. What is it based on? 

You could say that zero is the starting point so any ingredient that has a zero data will get a zero rating. This seems rather silly but it would be logical. However, it's not the case. Consider these examples.

  • PEG-150 DISTEARATE – Rating 3, no data
  • TEA COCOYL HYDROLYZED COLLAGEN – Rating 4, no data
  • PEG-2 SOYAMINE – Rating 5, no data
  • SODIUM OCTOXYNOL-2 ETHANE SULFONATE – Rating 6, no data

Without any data, how did these ingredients get a rating?

Makeup and skincare ingredient resources.

Where to turn? One database we find helpful is the Cosmetic Ingredient Review. This site is collated by toxicologists and other people with science backgrounds. They publish the final report of the safety assessment for ingredients. 

The site relies heavily on the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) which when identifying the ingredients to be assessed. The INCL system was established in the early 1970’s by the Personal Care Products Council and has more that 16,000 ingredients in their cosmetic and personal care products database. The INCL names are used in the United States, Europe, China, Japan labeling names in all countries are the same.

Ingredient databases are a very helpful tool when evaluating and comparing products. The more scientific the site, the more challenging they can be to read through as the information isn't always boiled down to a quick summary and rating, but the information provided is critical. Happy researching!

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