We all use numerous products on a daily basis to be clean, smell good and look our best. However, do we ever think of the health and environmental impacts of the products we use every single day? If you’ve ever taken a look at the ingredient list of a typical beauty product, it probably seemed too daunting to research every single ingredient. The good news: you don’t have to. There’s an app for that: Think Dirty. We tried it out.
What Does Think Dirty Do?
Think Dirty provides information on over 350,000 beauty and personal care products. As a user, you just need to scan the barcode on the product using your smartphone camera (alternatively, you can search products by name). If the product is already in the database, plenty of information is available. The information is presented in three tabs.
First tab: Dirty Metre
In this section, the product is rated for three different categories: ‘Carcinogenicity’, ‘Developmental & Reproductive toxicity’, and ‘Allergies & Immunotoxicities’. The product is rated on a scale of 1-10 for each category. 0-2 is ‘Neutral’, 3-6 is ‘Half N’ Half’, and 7 and higher is ‘Dirty’. A global rating is also provided at the top of the page. My body butter from the Body Shop performed rather poorly with a score of 9…yikes!
Second Tab: Ingredients
The second tab provided a complete list of ingredients. Each ingredient was rated using the same scale as the dirty metre. Bold colour coding allows for easy, rapid scanning of the ingredient list.
Several ingredients in personal products are words we never use. Aside from chemists, I believe that most people are not familiar with PEG-100 Stearate and Amyl Cinnamal. Thankfully, the app has a nifty feature that allows users to click on an ingredient to get a little fact sheet.
The fact sheet has the name for each substance as well as information on its usage, health impacts, an explanation, warnings from regulatory agencies concerning that substance and sources, which I thought was a nice touch adding credibility to the warnings. I was a bit bummed to find out that my body butter contained a substance that appears on the EU CosIng Cosmetic Ingredients and Substance List of Prohibited Substances.
But on a more positive note….
Third Tab: Our Picks
For those whose products turned out to be really ‘dirty’, the third tab will provide much-needed consolation. Here, the app provides a list of alternative products. In my case, there were 39 body butters with much better ratings than my product. Each product can be saved on a list with the click of a button, or even directly purchased. The ‘Shop’ button links to Amazon.
How User-friendly Is It?
I found Think Dirty extremely user-friendly and easy to use. The app as a whole worked seamlessly, was visually compelling and its structure was easy to understand. The product ratings are illustrated with an intuitive scale and colour code, making quick interpretation on the go (e.g. in a drugstore or pharmacy) extremely simple. I found the alternative suggestions very useful, especially with the convenient shop button.
Is The Content Up-to-date?
As much as I enjoyed using Think Dirty, I was disappointed to find that most of the products in my bathroom were not listed yet. I scanned quite a few products from mainstream brands (Garnier, Nivea, Coppertone) only to find that they were not listed.
Is Their Advice Trustworthy?
I found the app extremely trustworthy due to the fact that credible sources were listed along with every listed ingredient. A detailed methodology is also available to understand the rating process.
Did the App Update Itself?
There were not updates or new features while I used the app. I was hoping to get information for some scanned products that I submitted for review, but I have not received it yet.
Any Additional Features Worth Mentioning?
Think Dirty contains several other features. As a user, I could ‘like’ a product I scanned or add it to a list for further reference. Default lists include ‘My Bathroom Shelf’, ‘Dirty Products’ and ‘Clean Products’. It is also possible to create other lists.
In the event that a scanned product is not already listed, the user can submit it for review by entering the product name and brand as well as a photo of the packaging.
Would You Recommend the App?
All in all, I would definitely recommend using the application. It is user friendly, credible and frankly, fun to use. The only downside – the fact that some mainstream products are not listed – will certainly diminish as more people use the app and scan their products.
This article is part of our RESET Special on sustainable consumption. You can find all the articles in the series here.