Deciphering Cosmetic Ingredients

The Hair Guru is a monthly column written by Sheryle Pettet of Salon on the Square in Santa Cruz, Calif. 

How do you pronounce cymbopogon schoenanthus extract and what is it? 

Your skin is the largest organ of your body and its pores allow absorption and expiration. So what are you absorbing in your daily routine of lotions, potions and cosmetics?

Is there an agency out there that truly protects the consumer? Are there watchdog groups? Where do you find ingredient information you can trust and comprehend?

There are user-friendly resources and other resources that make you feel like you need a chemistry background.

Let’s start with the user friendly: “A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients” by Ruth Winter. This book won’t answer all your questions about safety, however, it’s a good resource.

Here's a round up of consumer groups and agencies that can be helpful:

The Environmental Working Group  

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

The Science and Safety Behind Your Favorite Products

Cosmetic Ingredient Review

US Food and Drug Administration

National Institute of Health

Products Council Science and Safety

It is frustrating that there isn’t a single source of information to answer questions about safety and consumption. However, if you have time, a computer and a large cup of coffee, you can find information to educate yourself. And just in case you were wondering, cymbopogon schoenanthus is an extract from the lemongrass plant.