When Lily Tse found out that her mom's breast cancer had come back, she became health-obsessed. What she found was that harmful ingredients were hiding in plain sight, lurking in the beauty products she was using on a daily basis. So she created Think Dirty, an app that warns you about the health impacts of beauty products and common household items, and helps recommend "safer" options. "Even as someone working in advertising, I constantly got fooled by marketing claims. It seemed so wrong," Tse told Canadian Business.
While many people can relate to scrutinizing ingredient lists at the grocery store, we often ignore what beauty and skincare products be sinking into our pores. Even if said products, from sunscreen to moisturizers to lipsticks, disclose their ingredients on the label, most people are unable to differentiate between a natural compound from a proven toxin, but Think Dirty wants to change all that.
Here's how it works: Users can scan over one million products (from dish soap to baby wipes to mascara) IRL or search for them by name to see where they fall on the "dirty meter." Each product is given a score from one (cleanest) to ten (most toxic) based on its ingredients and the app lists the ingredients as well as their purpose, potential health impacts, and provides links to relevant studies and government warnings about them.
Even the most conscientious customer might be surprised by the scores some "green" products receive. Products marketed as "natural" may receive a high toxicity score, while those who don't advertise themselves as being gentle or especially safe may receive the lowest score possible. Sometimes something as seemingly harmless as a different scent can make a big difference on the score the product receives.
Seriously, visit your local drug store and look up the ingredients list on any package. Chances are, you'll struggle with pronouncing the majority of the words, but Think Dirty helps put all the scientific jargon and conflicting research in a digestible way, so that you can decide for yourself what makes you feel comfortable putting on your skin, and what you don't.
According to the Think Dirty website, products are reviewed and rated by the in-house chemistry team and Advisory Board, which is made up of experts in fields like medicine, environmental toxicology and chemical engineering. The scores are derived exclusively from the documented evidence of the effects of each product's ingredients, according to the company website. That means it doesn't matter to the app if a product advertises itself as "green" or not and it does not factor this into its score.
If you're worried that you'll only get bad news from using this app, the good news is that Think Dirty will recommend some "cleaner" options for you. Yes, some might come with an intimidating price tag, but there are also tons of drugstore brands with products that have received impressive ratings like Neutrogena Naturals and Maybelline Mineral Powders. It really all comes down to a specific product.
What Think Dirty gives you is the gift of transparency. It's up to you to choose what to keep out of your routine, and what to embrace.