Think Dirty. Shop Clean App Makes it Easy to Avoid Toxic Ingredients in Personal Care Items.


Think Dirty. Shop Clean. app reads complicated labels for you and produces instant safety ratings for thousands of personal care items. 

Consider your bathroom cupboard and then consider this: there are about 82,000 ingredients used in personal care items and cosmetics, and it’s estimated that one in eight are industrial chemicals, many with known health effects. Most have not been fully tested on humans.

Who would have thought that everyday products on drugstore shelves -- shampoo, body lotion, aftershave, cosmetics and such -- could be so unhealthy?. Shouldn’t the government protect us from dangerous stuff?

Health Canada does regulate personal care products in Canada and maintains what it calls a “hot list” of ingredients that are either banned or restricted based on data that the government deems acceptable.

The problem is, there are ingredients that are banned in Europe and that many environmental research organizations consider carcinogenic, hormone disruptors or otherwise toxic, that don’t appear on Health Canada’s “hot list.” And there are all kinds are ingredients that haven’t been tested on humans so no one really knows if they’re toxic or not.

To help us avoid the known worst of the worst, the DavidSuzuki Foundation publishes a list of 12 ingredients to avoid in personal care items. Called the “dirty dozen”, these are the chemicals that are suspected carcinogens, hormone disruptors, reproductive toxicants and neurotoxins. (Search “dirty dozen cosmetic chemicals” for a detailed list.)

The challenge is that you still have to read the ingredients lists on the product packages. Scientific and multisyllabic, this is complicated stuff and takes a lot of effort to decipher. And that’s if you can actually read the ingredients, which I can’t anymore.

There's an app for that...

Fortunately there’s a Canadian app that does the label reading for you, called “Think Dirty: Shop Clean.” Thanks to the app, all you need to do is scan the product bar code and the app tells you the product safety rating.

Similar to the Environmental Working Group “Skin Deep” database, “Think Dirty: Shop Clean” rates products on a scale of one to 10, with lower rating being the least toxic (coded green), middle of the road is yellow and toxic (a rating of 7+) is coded red. The Skin Deep database is still an excellent resource but my product formulations sold in Canada aren’t listed in the database.

Ideally you use this app in the store, before you buy the product and start using it. But it’s also a handy tool to help you clean out your bathroom cupboards.

I just scanned my hair gel and it received a very red rating of nine. It was a little stressful but easy to toss in the garbage. Not so easy to toss is my Kiss My Face brand body lotion. Kiss My Face is a brand that I usually trust but like many natural brands, their products can cover the gamut of green to red ratings. My body lotion received a nine in the “Think Dirty” scan.

I cross referenced it with the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep database since I know the product is available in the U.S. It rec

eived a seven, which is still “red”. I’m not going to toss it but I won’t let my kids use it and I won’t buy it again.

Bit by bit I’ll scan all of my personal care products and use the app to source safer personal care products for me and my family. For now, detoxing our bathroom is a work in progress. 

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