The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel (CIR) is the very best resource for information on the safety of cosmetic ingredients. Who is on the CIR panel can be seen here.

The mission statement of the CIR is: “The Cosmetic Ingredient Review thoroughly reviews and assesses the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics in an open, unbiased, and expert manner, and publishes the results in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.” The Cosmetic Ingredient Review was established in 1976 by the industry trade association, now known as the Personal Care Products Council with the full support of the FDA and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). Many have been critical of the FDA but the CFA by definition looks out for the safety of consumers.

The CIR panel is the most qualified organization to make determinations on the safety of cosmetic ingredients. The CIR makes scientific findings that are based on fact and not an agenda.  According to the CIR website these are the CIR procedures are:

  • “CIR staff members conduct extensive literature searches, compile data, and prepare draft reports on high-priority ingredients. They organize the literature into several categories: chemistry (including physical properties and manufacture), use (cosmetic and non-cosmetic), general biology (with absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion data), and animal toxicology (acute, short-term, subchronic, and chronic studies, as well as dermal irritation and sensitization data).
  • The staff also prepare a clinical assessment of the ingredients that may include epidemiologic studies, along with classic repeated insult patch tests. In vitro test data are also gathered and incorporated into the review.
  • At each stage of the process, CIR seeks the input of all interested parties during a formal 60-day comment period.
  • If the open scientific literature contains insufficient information, the Expert Panel will call on industry or other interested parties to provide unpublished data or to undertake specific studies. After multiple opportunities for public comment and open, public discussion, a final safety assessment is issued.
  • The Panel may make one of four basic decisions regarding an ingredient:
    • Safe ingredients — Ingredients safe in the practices of use (product categories) and concentrations of use for each product category as documented in the safety assessment.
    • Unsafe ingredients — These are ingredients with specific adverse effects that make them unsuitable for use in cosmetics.
    • Safe ingredients, with qualifications — The Panel may reach the conclusion that an ingredient can be used safely, but only under certain conditions. Qualifications frequently relate to maximum concentration, but may also address rinse-off versus leave-on uses and other restrictions.
    • Ingredients for which the data are insufficient — If the Panel reaches an “insufficient data” conclusion, it does not state whether the ingredient is safe or unsafe. The Panel is, however, describing a situation in which the available data do not support safety. The specific data that would allow the Panel to complete its assessment always are identified.”

Here are some quick guides that will help use the CIR website to determine what cosmetics ingredients have been found safe.

Quick Reference Table includes a complete list of all findings

Cosmetic Ingredients found safe as used

Cosmetic Ingredients found safe with qualifications

Ingredients found unsafe for use in cosmetics.

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