This App Wants You to Think Dirty About Your Cosmetics

Think Dirty app illustration about how it works.

Courtesy of Think Dirty

When it comes to food, it can be fairly simple and straight-forward to read the ingredients and make a decision about whether or not we want to eat it, and to avoid buying products with ingredients that don't agree with us, such as dairy or gluten or common allergens.

But when it comes to all of our personal care items, from soap to lotion to cosmetics, it isn't nearly as easy to understand which ingredients may be risky or hazardous, unless we've memorized the names of specific chemicals and additives that are known or suspected to be unhealthy for our bodies.

Unlike foods, products from the cosmetics industry aren't nearly as regulated as we'd like to think, and those bottles of fancy-smelling bodycare products might include ingredients that could be carcinogenic or potential endocrine disruptors, which are probably best not slathered all over our body's biggest organ, our skin.

A new app, however, aims to help us make more informed decisions about which cosmetic products we buy, by putting that information at our fingertips.

The Think Dirty app allows users to scan a product's barcode and get not only a list of the ingredients, but also see how they stack up in terms of their potential toxicity to the human body. The app gives products a score on the "Dirty Meter," based on the inclusion of certain carcinogens or allergens, and offers alternative options for cleaner products.

"Think Dirty® app is the easiest way to learn about the potentially toxic ingredients in your cosmetics and personal care products. It’s an independent source that allows you to compare products as you shop. Just scan the product barcode and Think Dirty will give you easy-to-understand info on the product, its ingredients, and cleaner options."

Think Dirty includes over 1600 brands, and 60,000 products, and scores them using information consolidated from a variety of different sources, including lists of prohibited chemicals from governments, guidelines from regulatory agencies, and peer-reviewed journals. The app offers a "My Bathroom Rating" feature, so users can see how their choice of products currently stands, in terms of possibly toxic ingredients, and track their progress toward a cleaner personal care routine. Users can also save products to a custom shopping list, so when they get to the store, the process of choosing better products is much simpler, because they've already got a list to work from.

While the app doesn't have every single possible product listed or rated in it, users can scan and submit missing products to be added to the database, helping to fully populate it for more exhaustive results.

This isn't the first app to address the issue of potentially risky cosmetics ingredients, as EWG's Skin Deep database and mobile app are also a great resource, but Think Dirty also includes some social features, such as rewards and personal challenges, and in the future, users will have the ability to see what their friends' favorite cosmetics products are.

Grab the free Think Dirty app (sorry, iOS only) from the App Store, or get more information at Think Dirty. If you'd like some more help with kicking your dirty cosmetics habit to the curb, check out 30 Days of Dirty.