First, let me start off by saying I am an app minimalist. I’m currently still in the Dark Ages with my iPhone 6S 16GB, so I barely have room for Gmail and text threads. I’m extremely judicious with app downloads, but my new discovery–the “Think Dirty” app–was a no-brainer!
Before I continue any further, let ask you a few questions and give you some food for thought…
- Do you know the U.S. regulations for cosmetics and household cleaners?
- Do you know how many chemicals are banned in the U.S. vs. the E.U.?
- Do you know if you are currently using any skincare or household items that contain toxic chemicals?
- Do you know the potential consequences of using skin and household products that contain toxins?
I didn’t know the answers to those questions until a year ago. Before, I had always heard that pregnant women avoid certain products and that those same women choose special brands of soaps, diaper wipes, etc., for their newborns. I figured it had something to do with the chemicals in some skincare lines, shampoos, and cleaners, but I didn’t know much more than that. Then, I did a deep dive and found answers to the above questions:
- According to Laura Entis’ interview with Dr. Steve Xu, a resident physician in the department of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, “…cosmetics, which fall under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration [FDA], are very lightly regulated. While the agency has some labelling requirements, companies can easily avoid listing a product’s ingredients by claiming doing so what give away trade secrets. What’s more, manufacturers don’t have to report health complaints to the FDA.” Xu and his colleagues released a research report demanding that the FDA take stricter precautionary measures before approving any product. The same lax rules apply to household cleaners; the EPA isn’t authorized to regulate household products. Because of this, some states have taken regulatory matters into their own hands, but there are many toxic solutions out there that have slipped through the cracks.
- Presently, the E.U. bans 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm, and/or birth defects. The U.S. FDA has only banned or restricted 11 chemicals from cosmetics. That means that we may be spraying, lathering, dabbing, and powdering up to 1,317 chemicals onto our skin–the largest organ of the human body!–each day. It’s no wonder that pregnant women take extra precaution when buying and using products throughout pregnancy. But, after pregnancy, many women return to the unsafe products they were using before. If those 1,317 products are not safe for babies, why would anyone want to slather them on their own skin…ever?
- Possibly, you think you’re in the clear because all of your products read “natural” or “organic.” Unfortunately, those words hold little meaning when it comes to cosmetics and household products in the U.S. Again, Europe is one step ahead. In the E.U., any product labeled “NATRUE” is 100% safe and pure. Until the U.S. adopts Europe’s same regulatory standards, we consumers need to go a step further than simply believing any claims on a bottle. We need to do some research on each product we purchase to be sure the ingredients are actually as safe as they seem. Sound daunting? Fortunately, there are thousands of truly natural and organic options on the market these days. Even popular stores like Target and CVS have committed to creating sections of their stores devoted to truly natural, organic skincare. Once you identify natural brands you love, buying clean cosmetics and other products can be just as easy as before!
- Finally, you may be asking, “What’s the big deal about a few impure ingredients here and there? Does it really even matter?” The answer is: Yes, it does! But don’t take my word for it. Researchers at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health published a report showing that a short break from certain kinds of cosmetics, shampoos, and lotions can cause a significant drop in the levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals in the body. From the report: “The FDA has limited ability to regulate and test the chemicals used in cosmetics and the potential health effects of many of these chemicals are largely unknown. This study shows that chemicals in the personal care products that teenage girls put on their bodies, get in their bodies. It also shows that reading labels and using lower chemical products can lower exposure to these chemicals.” Another study illustrates that a baby can be born with up to 200 chemicals in its umbilical cord, which explains why pregnant mothers are hesitant to use any makeup or cleaners that contain toxins!
The bottom line: Products we apply to our skin and spray around our homes may contain hormone-disrupting chemicals that could lead to chronic disease, birth defects, autoimmune disease, and even cancer. Since natural alternatives exist, why not buy only those items containing the cleanest, purest ingredients?
This is where Think Dirty comes in!
Prior to downloading the Think Dirty app, I began using the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep” online database to measure the safety of each of my makeup products, sunscreens, household cleaners, and more. Skin Deep is an excellent resource, but it can be cumbersome to conduct Internet research in the aisles of a CVS. Think Dirty is essentially the accessible, on-the-go version of Skin Deep. Currently, you can search 1,034,160 different products in Think Dirty’s database, and the number grows each day! (Don’t feel like typing? I get you. Typing is tough. Fortunately for us, Think Dirty offers a “scan” feature! Simply scan the barcode of any item to see its rating.) After typing in or scanning the item, Think Dirty will rate it on a scale of 0-10, 0 being the safest and 10 being the most toxic. Generally, I buy products in the 0-3 range because Think Dirty labels these as products that do not “contain any ingredients which have a documented potential negative health impact.”
I’m overwhelmed! Where do I start?
I understand that completely revamping every mascara, blush, sunscreen, nail polish, soap, and laundry detergent may seem overwhelming and impossible. I was in your same shoes a year ago! However, if you take the process step by step, it’s truly not daunting at all. My recommendation is this: When you run out of a certain item, instead of thoughtlessly replacing it with the same brand, check its score on Think Dirty. If its score is above a 3, sift through some of Think Dirty’s cleaner recommendations and try a new brand. There are hundreds of natural and organic lines on the market and, as previously mentioned, stores like Target and CVS are making it easier and easier to identify them. Next time you visit either store, find their “natural” cosmetic section to make the healthiest choices. (Or, if you’re an online shopping fiend like me, find the products on Amazon!)
If you’re still overwhelmed, check out my prior post “Embrace All-natural Products” for some of my recommendations!
Happy natural, organic shopping. Your body–and our planet!–will thank you 🙂
Do you plan to download Think Dirty in order to search for the cleanest items? Do you have any favorite all-natural brands that you recommend? Please share in the comments!
In each blog post, I aim to bring you food for thought (pun intended. Note: my day job is teaching English), but don’t take my word for it! Click on and read all of the links above to become your own expert on this topic; knowledge is power. The more you know and understand the “why” behind each biohack, the easier it will be to stick to it and realize you can’t live without it!