Another problem with relying on labels is that many products simply list words like â€śfragranceâ€ť or â€śparfumâ€ť as ingredients. Seriously, thatâ€™s like giving your vegan friend a hamburger and telling her it just has â€śfoodâ€ť in it. Once again, since Think Dirty uses data from scientific studies conducted by non-profit organizations and government agencies, it can fill in some of the blanks from the label.
If one of your favorite products has a high toxicity rating, donâ€™t panic. ThinkDirty rates products with any unknown or controversial ingredients as â€śdirtyâ€ť to warn consumers. Any product that lists â€śfragranceâ€ť as an ingredient automatically gets a high toxicity rating on Think Dirty. Similarly, my BareMinerals foundation is a 6 in part because contains mica, which is a common allergen and is sometimes contaminated with lead. Since I know Iâ€™m not allergic to mica, it should be safe for me to use as long as I donâ€™t do anything crazy like inhale it or set it on fire.
Itâ€™s most important to stay away from cosmetics that are known to contain dangerous levels of carcinogens and toxins. In particular, you may want to avoid formaldehyde, lead, parabens, phthalates, and sulfates. Here are some important facts to keep in mind:
â€˘ Formaldehyde: itâ€™s not just for preserving creepy dead animals anymoreâ€¦itâ€™s now in cosmetics as well! A formaldehyde-and-water solution called â€śformolâ€ť is a common ingredient in nail polishes. Other common cosmetic preservatives, like sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, slowly release formaldehyde over time. Formaldehyde was classified as a known human carcinogen in 2011.
â€˘ Lead is a neurotoxin that is not considered safe to ingest in any amount. The FDA has drawn some criticism for maintaining that the surprising amount of lead in lipstick is not a safety concern because lipstick is not intended for consumption. Maybe the FDA should research how much lipstick consumers ingest accidentally. In the meantime, donâ€™t eat your lipstick, folks.
â€˘ Phthalates are a class of chemicals found in many cosmetics. High levels of phthalates have been found to cause birth defects and hormonal changes in lab animals. In humans, they may be a contributory cause of breast cancer. All humans are exposed to some phthalates from their environments and their diets. The fewer, the better. (That is, unless you want cancerâ€¦then more phthalates might be better, I guess.)
â€˘ Parabens are a class of compounds often used as a preservative in cosmetics. They may be a contributory cause of breast cancer development and hormonal changes, but the evidence is not yet definitive. Parabens can be absorbed through skin contact.
â€˘ Sulfates are found in many soaps, shampoos, and other foamy cleansing products. They can cause skin irritation. Also, sodium laureth sulfate sometimes contains trace amounts of 1,4-Dioxane, which is thought to be a carcinogen.
Think Dirty has partnered with the Breast Cancer Fund and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. It was founded by an awesome young entrepreneur named Lily Tse. Tse describes the app as a â€śconsumer revolutionâ€ť and she hopes that it will empower consumers with information so that they can â€śvoteâ€ť with their dollars for cleaner products. Put that way, the concept is inspirational. Just imagine if there were similar apps for detecting animal ingredients in food or unethically sourced materials in clothing. Our smartphones may make it easier than ever to put our money where our morals are. Thanks for thinking forward, Think Dirty!