When I was in college, my idea of consumer responsibility was "making purchases without having to ask Mom & Dad for help."
Sure, I wanted to shop organic, donate money to charity, and volunteer with disadvantaged children in the developing world...but it was pretty hard to fit those things in between shifts at the neighborhood café, a full-time class schedule, and asking my landlord for rent extensions.
Now that I have a 9 to 5, I'm finally in a position to put my money where my mouth is--literally and figuratively. Buying sustainable products that come from responsible companies is something I value--and still have so much to learn about.
The more I educate myself on environmental, social, political and economic issues concerning manufacturing and product development, the harder it gets to feel good about buying something.
And then, I discovered Think Dirty®.
Think Dirty empowers and educates the consumer on the cosmetics industry by allowing them to make an informed decision on what products to purchase.
Launched in 2013 by Lily Tse, Think Dirty helps users identify unwanted ingredients in household products, including parabens and phthalates. It's as easy to use as opening the app, scanning a barcode on your product, and receiving a 1-10 rating--the higher, the "dirtier."
Today, I scanned everything on my vanity and in my bathroom to see how Dirty my shopping habits are. I had some preconceived notions of what my overall bathroom rating might be, and I was surprised several times over.
I was content to purchase from brands that do not test on animals, but taken aback to learn that many of my "luxury" makeup brands were DIRTY (Urban Decay, Smashbox, Lancôme). My Essie® nail polish (10/10) was no surprise, but I was stoked to learn that there's an alternative! Think Dirty suggested a brand called Scotch Naturals® (3/10) with a veritable rainbow of trendy colors. Obviously, I added that one to my shopping list.
Colorado is considered a semi-arid desert, meaning residents often suffer from dry skin. As such, I have an impressive collection of softeners, soothers, smoothers and moisturizers. I was surprised to learn that my "guilt-free" Desert Essence® lip balm, purchased in the all-natural section of the grocery store, scored as high as a 5/10--but my "guilty pleasure" EOS® lip balm was rated 0/10--for zero dirty ingredients. I'll never buy anything else!
For skin products, I expected my Body Shop® Body Butter to do well on the test...but it actually ended up being one of the dirtiest products in my entire apartment. The Satsuma flavor (my favorite!!) scored 9/10, which was just as bad as multinational corporate Neutrogena® and their sesame body oil.
After researching everything in my medicine cabinet, it's clear that I have a lot of shopping to do...but I feel way more educated. For every product, Think Dirty walks you through the process of understanding how and why certain products are worse, or better, than others.
Since I'm so thrilled it passed the test, let's take a closer look at my EOS strawberry lip balm. None of its inputs have been linked to cancer or reproductive ailments ("carcinogenicity" or "developmental & reproductive toxicity"), but overall it has a few things in it that some people may not have a personal tolerance for ("allergies & immunotoxicity"). It has 13 ingredients, only a few of which I can pronounce, but I'll copy here for the sake of discussion.
Natural Flavor (Aroma), Limonene, Olea Europaea, Beeswax/Cera Alba (Cire d'Abeille), Fragaria Vesca (Strawberry) Fruit Extract, Olive Fruit Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut Oil), Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Stevia Rebaudiana Leaf/Stem Extract, Tocopherol, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Linalool
Each of these 13 ingredients is rated individually--and they all got between 0 and 3 on the dirty scale. For every ingredient, Think Dirty provides the user with alternate names, usage, health impacts, explanation, sources, and any warnings from regulatory agencies.
Olive fruit oil is one of the inputs in EOS lip balm, aka "extra virgin olive oil." It's "used as an emollient, opacifying agent and surfactant." Its health impacts are "not suspected to be harmful," and it boasts the additional qualities, "reduce redness, moisturizing, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory." Think Dirty goes on to explain that EVOO is "composed of fatty acid chains. It is commonly used for cooking. There are no restrictions for its use. It is not thought of to possess any sort of toxic effects."
In case you don't believe what you read or just want more information, you can consult the US Food and Drug Administration, the EU Cosmetic Directing Cosing, or the INCI Dictionary. But Think Dirty already did that work for you, you lucky duck! The app lists verifiable sources for all of its information, so if something sounds too good to be true, you can look it up too.
For people who love information, Think Dirty is the kind of app where one could fall down the rabbit hole of discovery. Once you've learned everything there is to know about what goes into your beauty products, Think Dirty offers one last service: recommendations for clean alternatives. Whether you're tired of picking up the same organic toothpaste every month or you're scared (like I was!) of the Colgate tube you just scanned, Think Dirty has your back with a solid selection of worry-free products. If you're unsure of the quality: there are user reviews. If you don't know where to find the product: they'll direct you to Amazon.
Think Dirty is a must-have tool for every well-intentioned consumer who, like me, just doesn't know where to start tackling their footprint. Not only do I feel better about what I'm keeping in my home and putting on my body, but I feel smarter too!
Download Think Dirty now and let me know what you think or how your bathroom scored.