What is the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Board (CIR)?

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Board (CIR)

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) is an independent, self-regulating panel of skin care experts that uses evidence based data to find out if products are safe for cosmetic formulations.

The CIR is the best source to find out if skin care ingredients are safe.

Since forming in 1976 under the Personal Care Council, this panel has verified the safety of thousands of common skin care ingredients and they serve as the highest authority on the subject.

The CIR is supported by the personal care council as well as public health organizations like the FDA, but their research is conducted independently and under strict criteria. (1)

The processes used by the CIR to qualify the safety of an ingredient are standardized, robust, and inclusive of the most important considerations regarding safety.

Many cosmeceutical companies depend on reports by the CIR for their trustworthy analyses of safety considerations.

The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology outlined their procedures and veracity in writings since the 1980's. (2)

This panel is composed of 7 highly experienced industry professionals, from toxicologists to clinical research doctors, dermatologists, and more.

There is at least 1 member representing each of the following specific areas of interest:

a dermatologist represents the American Academy of Dermatology,

a toxicologist represents the Society of Toxicology,

a consumer representative for the Consumer Federation of America,

an industry cosmetic scientist


Why is the Cosmetic ingredient review important?

Independent studies of ingredient safety is a crucial feature of public health. Understanding the risks and benefits of an ingredient that will be placed on the skin has value that cannot be overstated.

If panels like the CIR did not conduct thorough investigations of ingredient safety, the average consumer would be at great risk.

The ability to ensure that a product is safe, or at least safe for your skin, could not be more important for doctors and patients alike.

While understanding the grade of a product's safety is itself vital, the CIR includes substantial dossiers on each of their subjects which provides transparency to consumers.

Organizations like the CIR do not simply have us "take their word for it" in regards to product safety; they show their work. This kind of transparency enables consumers to make the best decisions about their skin care

What does it mean when a product is graded safe by the CIR?

Whenever a product is graded as "safe" or "unsafe" by the CIR, specific considerations are provided that illuminate particular situations where an ingredient would or would not be acceptable.

For example, the CIR's report on a hypothetical ingredient may indicate its safe use on any non-psoriatic skin; then elaborating on the concerns regarding psoriasis. Every ingredient has different considerations.

This is to say, just because a product is described as "safe for use" by the CIR does not mean it is correct for every skin type.

In general, skin care manufacturers and dermatologists are aware of these considerations when they formulate skin care products or offer prescriptions. This way, they can design products aimed at treating specific conditions and skin types.

For that reason, when we mention the CIR safety ratings of an ingredient in our blogs, we try to identify some of the considerations they explain in their reports. There are a number of other safety verification organizations such as the EWG, so always feel free to conduct extra research when you are unsure about an ingredient

Is the CIR the regulatory body that designates skin care products as clean?

"Clean Skin Care" is not an official term and does not have any agreed upon standards as to what it means. The term clean is meaningless without a list of standards and requirements.

The CIR does not use the words toxic or nontoxic either. The CIR designates products as safe or unsafe.

You will sometimes hear the term GRAS which stands for "Generally Recognized as Safe". The CIR does not grant GRAS status to an ingredient, rather the ingredient must follow guidelines ifrom the FDA included in section 201 (s) and 409 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Is the CIR trustworthy?

There are many attempts to label products and categorize their level of safety. For example, Walgreens, CVS, Target, Sephora and other stores have guidelines they use to label products as clean.

Many of these clean standards do not agree with each other.

The Environmental Working Group rates products on a numerical scale according to reports found in the scientific literature but the do not seem to consider the impact value of the journals they quote so some of their sources are not from respected scientific publications or have been disputed.

At the end of the day, who you decide to trust with your information is up to you; but my opinion as a dermatologist is that the CIR is the most trustworthy source of cosmetic ingredient safety information. Their meetings are transparent and published and easily found in Google Scholar.

If you are ever concerned about the safety of an ingredient in your skin care products, go to Google Scholar and search this: ingredient name, safety, CIR

The CIR's findings on ingredient safety are also available for free on their website.

What's important is knowing that if the CIR says something is bad for eczema, it probably is, and if it says something is good for sensitive skin, that's likely also true. At the end of the day, their research and findings are public information designed meticulously to keep consumers safe from the wrong ingredients.

However, always remember that your Baumann Skin type matters when choosing ingredients that are safe for your skin.

To make sure you have all the information you need to make educated decisions on skin care ingredients, take our questionnaire to find your Baumann Skin Type. You will receive dermatologist recommended skin care regimens customized for your skin type and educational material to help you understand what ingredients are right for you.

To find information about specific ingredients- visit our cosmeceutical ingredient dictionary.

References on the CIR:

  1. About the cosmetic ingredient review. About the Cosmetic Ingredient Review | Cosmetic Ingredient Review. (n.d.). https://www.cir-safety.org/about
  2. Elder, R. L. (1984). The cosmetic ingredient review—a safety evaluation program. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 11(6), 1168-1174.
  3. https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetics-science-research/product-testing-cosmetics

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