“Think Dirty”, the app that cared for you

What is the Think Dirty app?

April’s Green Living Show in Toronto is an awesome event to attend! While at the show last year,nd k I discovered new and interesting products brands like Haute Goat. This year, my favorite discovery was a cool little app…The ‘Think Dirty’ app.

Think Dirty is an app that enables consumers to scan the bar codes of beauty products  to obtain an overall rating of the “dirtiness” of this product based on 3 criteria: carcinogenicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and allergenicity/immunotoxicity. The concept is simple: the higher the grade, the dirtier the product.

The app also lists all of the ingredients of each scanned product in a pleasantly readable format. Each ingredient is also categorized as either “Clean”, “Half n’ Half” or “Dirty”, and further valuable explanations are available on each of them.  Information like alternate ingredient names, the role of this ingredient in the product, health impacts, and sources that led to the rating, all provide a comprehensive view of the products we have been using on a daily basis! Lastly, the app also suggests alternative, ‘safer’ products to the dirty ones.

Capture
… simple!

Methodology

Evaluations are performed by the Founder and the advisory board of Think Dirty. They all have relevant experience in the field of biology, biochemistry, chemical engineering etc and all the sources used are available on their website. The ratings are based on the potential health impact of the ingredients displayed on the list of ingredients. The “dirty meter” ranges from 0 (neutral) to 10 (dirty) on each of the 3 criteria mentioned above and gives a final grade.  The grade is based directly on the weakest score of the three criteria.  Hence, a product can receive criteria scores of 1, 4, and 9 (in say carcinogenicity)- the overall score of this product will then be 9.

Testing the tester

The first products I scanned from my bathroom were not referenced yet and I received an “Oops-kind-of” message inviting me to suggest the product for future referencing. The process simply consists of taking a picture of the front and the back of the product and to send it to Think Dirty after scanning it. Most of my products were not in their database yet, I imagine because they are from smaller brands (like Green Beaver or even smaller independent makers).

After more investigation, I found some suspicious items in my bathroom… a Nivea Men face wash gel! The thing was Avatar-blue and smelled awesome. I reckoned it HAD to be dirty!. Scanned it and sure enough my instincts were right -it was a 9. Yikes.

This particular product ranked worst on Developmental and Reproductive toxicity, and the list of ingredients shows the presence of methylparaben. In this gel, methylparaben is used as a fragrance and a preservative. It acts like estrogen and is a hormone disruptor, on top of having been linked to some cancers. Better to avoid it next time, maybe?

Dirty meter
The overall score for this product is a 9
Ingredients
The list of its ingredients and additional information on each of them

Spreading the word

One area of improvement I see for the app is to rate more virtuous brands as well. It would be rewarding for people who have great products in their bathroom. And by incorporating better rated products into the database, the app could more readily provide alternate suggestions to the dirty products that are out there.

Also, for users, cross-checking information with other sources is a good idea. Think Dirty is great and it’s from Toronto (yeah!) but other organizations have also developed similar apps. The Environmental Working Group’s app is called Healthy Living and their methodology is very different so it can be interesting to compare both. And as with anything, always apply critical judgement with this type of apps and use them in a way that works for you.

Overall, Think Dirty is a great app. I find it very user friendly, I like the transparency of their methodology and the fact that they’re trying to continuously extend their database. I’ve been using it constantly since I installed it and I am diligently talking about it to loved ones.

So, are you ready to think dirty?!