For someone who is pretty into skincare and all things beauty I’m shamefully neglectful when it comes to really paying attention to what’s actually IN the products I use, often just picking up whatever promises the most, looks the prettiest or has a stellar recommendation to work wonders on hyperpigmentation (my personal skin bugbear).
I don’t have particularly sensitive skin but I do have VERY sensitive eyes so as long as a product seems to be providing some benefits for my skin and doesn’t irritate my eyes then I’m more than happy to smear it all over my face or body. I’ll have a cursory skim of the ingredients list on a product very occasionally, usually only when I’ve been writing up a blog post and wanted to find out what ingredients might be the “wonder ingredient” that’s making me rave about a product.
I recently fell down an internet rabbit hole (please tell me I’m not the only person who goes to Google one thing and ends up twenty Wikipedia pages deep an hour later…) and stumbled across Think Dirty®, a project set up to “understand the truths in the beauty industry”. They provide a free app that gives you the opportunity to scan the barcodes on your beauty products to find out more about the ingredients that are in those items. You can find out more about the project here.
Ingredients are ‘rated’ between 0 and 10; 10 being those ingredients the app considers the most “dirty”. (It’s worth noting that not every single product out there is listed on the app – it has been created in the US so I think if you’re outside of the US then there’s a good chance some of the products you use won’t be featured.) The two screen grabs below show the rating system they use on the left and an example of the ingredients page for a product on the right.
It’s pretty addictive once you start, two hours later and I was still scanning products in and at first glance, just looking at the overall rating number products were given, the results seemed pretty horrendous! However, when I began to look closer at the ingredients list for each product featured in the app I often became much less concerned.
An example being, I’m currently using the Soap & Glory Peaches and Clean Cleansing Milk as my first cleanse. It was rated as a 9. When I looked into the ingredients list that 9 rating was due to fragrance being present in the product. Now for some people fragrance in cosmetics and skincare can be a real problem, for me fragrance generally doesn’t cause me any issues so I’m not going to throw out something I like and use because of that. The rest of the ingredients were all rated at a 5 or less (the app rates 0-3 as “clean”, 4 to 7 as “half and half” and over 7 as “dirty”). So definitely take the time to click into the ingredient list because the initial rating of a product is given based on the highest rated ingredient. Don’t just assume something is bad or not suitable for you because of it’s rating on the app.
Similarly I had quite a lot of products with ratings around 7 due to presence of parabens, where the remainder of the ingredients were all given low ratings. I realise a lot of people are concerned about parabens due to the fact parabens have been found in breast cancer tumours but I personally really don’t have a problem with them, so their presence in a product doesn’t put me off – they’re also found in healthy breast tissue and occur naturally in lots of foods, including blueberries and apples.
It may sound like I’m being a bit negative about Think Dirty and their ratings system. I’m really not. I think it’s a fantastic idea. I’m a firm believer in informed choice in everything that you do and this makes it really easy to have that that with your skincare and make-up. If it wasn’t for this app I wouldn’t have read up nearly as much as I have on all the various ingredients used in the products I use almost every day. I’ve been able to assess what level of “risk” I’m comfortable with in my products and look for alternatives for those that include ingredients I’m less comfortable with; whilst fragrance and parabens may not bother me, I find the idea of formaldehyde off-putting so I’d seek to avoid that in the future. Also, I’ve been swapping between two glycolic acid toners, one was rated a 9 and one was rated a 5 – as both work equally well for me, it makes sense to opt for the one with a “cleaner” rating.
When I widened my search of their database from products I personally use to just browsing random products, I found items that included chemicals used in paintstripping to those found in anti-freeze. It’s also fascinating to discovered how many companies or products that claim to be ‘organic’ and ‘pure’, still include an abundance of chemicals that we know very little about. It’s definitely a reminder not to judge a book by it’s cover, or in this case a product by the claims on the front! It really is something worth exploring in a little more detail. I’ll certainly take more time in the future to check out the ingredient list of products to check it doesn’t include anything I’m not comfortable with.
We live in a society that wants to tell us everyday that we need to look a certain way to be “perfect” and this does seem to be taken advantage of by cosmetic companies, we are often too interested in what products promise as opposed to what they contain, and conversely get caught up in the hype around “dangerous” products without really assessing the accuracy of those statements – we’re inundated on a daily basis with scare tactic stories that seem to deem anything and everything harmful in one way or another, so I think it’s becoming evermore important to take time to do your own research on things and not just automatically believe a newspaper headline, a magazine article or a beauty products claims.
I guess I’m suggesting that a little mindfulness could go a long way. Take a couple of minutes to scan that new face cream and research the ingredients list, be aware of the contents and then decide how comfortable YOU are using them. Regardless of where you stand on the inclusion of chemicals in cosmetic products, more definitely needs to be done to spread awareness of the confusing chemical names that we don’t understand and so immediately ignore.
Let me end by saying I think when it comes to health, beauty or in fact ANYTHING people do with their lives and their bodies then each individual should be making the choices they feel happy and comfortable with. NOT what society, their friends, the beauty industry or a blog tells them to do. You do you.