The app that tells you exactly what chemicals you're putting on your face.

Image: iStock

Playing with makeup is all fun and games… until you stop and think about the fact that you don’t actually know what you’re putting on your skin.

The ingredients list on beauty products is often more cryptic than ancient hieroglyphics, so it’s no wonder many of us just slather our foundation/eyeshadow/lipstick on without a second thought as to what it’s made of.

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Enter Think Dirty, the app that decodes cosmetics labels and provides a rundown of the ingredients they contain — including any chemicals or toxins that may be present — to help consumers make informed shopping decisions.

Think Dirty was created by Lily Tse, whose family history of breast cancer made her wary of potentially harmful ingredients in personal care products.

“Although many products are labeled “all-natural” or “organic”, there is little transparency in labelling cosmetics. There was also no real tool out there for consumers to find information easily,” Tse writes on the app’s website.

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To use the app, you can type in a product name or scan its barcode. Then, you receive ratings for each ingredient’s carcinogenicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and allergenicity and immunotoxicity. The app also generates an overall rating on its DirtyMeter:


When it launched in 2013, there were around 68,000 products listed on Think Dirty; now there are more than 200,000 from almost 3000 different brands. So there's a good chance you can find many of your favourites on there, also some Aussie brands mightn't be listed yet.

Our graphic designer Cecilia downloaded Think Dirty earlier this week, and was shocked to discover a number of the products she uses every day — including some extremely popular brands of moisturiser, lipstick and even hand wash — received "10" ratings for certain ingredients. "It's pretty scary," she admits.

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In most cases, it seemed fragrance was the main culprit, as it contributed largely to a high carcinogenicity count. The app also suggests some alternative products; although, as Cecilia says, it's hard to tear yourself away from the go-tos you love and rely on, especially if they work better.

Regardless of whether you act on the information provided, there's no denying knowledge is power. You can read more about Think Dirty on its website and download it from the Apple store here. 

Do you care about what's in your cosmetics?