Ever since a friend of mine went to aesthetician school and started talking about the safety — or lack thereof — of many beauty product ingredients, I’ve been obsessed with purging my makeup drawer of any and all dangerous goodies.

But here’s the problem: I can never remember which items on the ingredient list are bad for me. (And by bad, I mean everything from carcinogenic to rash provoking.) I just don’t get it. When it comes to food, I’ve had no trouble memorizing the main culprits (corn syrup! partially hydrogenated soybean oil!). But with makeup — well, let’s just say that I get a mild allergic reaction every time I try to remember the difference between diethylhexyl 2, 6-napthalate, and ethylacrylate.

As a result of my chemical-name phobia, I’d been procrastinating from inventorying my beauty products and pitching anything dangerous. Then I stumbled on Skin Deep, a safety database for beauty products run by the Environmental Working Group.

I know Grist has covered this site before, but I just wanted to reaffirm how utterly cool it is. Not only does it allow you to read up on those pesky multisyllabic ingredients, it also lets you look up practically any beauty product you want to get a health rating. Even if your product isn’t in the database, all you have to do is enter its ingredients for an instant read on safety. Genius.

Update [2007-2-7 10:57:57 by Yolanda Crous]: News that will take some of the guesswork out of buying safe beauty products: As of last month, 500 companies had signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, part of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. (The Environmental Working Group is participating in the campaign.) These companies have pledged to adhere to European Union Directive 76/768/EEC, which requires cosmetics companies to ban the use of substances “that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation or birth defects.”

The list of companies that have signed on is here. Drugstore biggies like Revlon and L’Oreal are nowhere to be seen (shocker). But I was psyched to see Crush Groove, which just opened a store down the block from me. (Whoo-hoo! An excuse to go check it out.)

If your favorite brand hasn’t signed the compact, check out this product safety tip card put out by the Breast Cancer Fund–a wallet-sized guide that lists beauty ingredients to avoid.