My mom’s cancer diagnosis has made me think a lot more about the everyday products I’ve been using and what I can change to make healthier choices. For example, I’ve often heard that antiperspirant use can cause certain cancers and so I switched to a crystal deodorant a few months ago. Making that small switch was easy and I started delving deeper into other changes I could make, like shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste. I quickly learned that there is a lot of sneaky wording on labels and that can make it hard to differentiate from toxic or not. Then I read about Think Dirty, downloaded it for “fun” and started scanning all the products in my shower and makeup bag.
Think Dirty is a free app that gives every ingredient a toxicity rating from 0-10, 0 being the least toxic and 10 being the most toxic. The ingredients are scored based on their abilities to give you irritation all the way up to containing cancer-causing agents. You can scan the bar code on a product or search it by name. There are over 550,000 products in their database and it was rare that I couldn’t find a product in the system (although you can submit products to be added if you run into this). Should your item have a bad score, you can access a list of similar products with lower toxicity scores.
I started with my favourite night cream. It scored a 10. Then I checked my day cream. It scored a 9. Before I knew it, I learned that all of my daily skin care products scored a 9 or 10 out of 10, meaning that they all contained proven cancer-causing agents. The worst part? All of these are from The Body Shop, a company that I regularly purchase products from, that I have used for years upon years and that prides themselves on how “natural” their products are. It was discouraging to learn.
Armed with this information, I decided to immediately change out anything that was sitting on my skin for long periods of time, like my moisturizers. The rest, I plan to replace with better substitutes as I run out. My goal is to eventually get all of the products I use to a score of 5 or less.
A few quick takeaways so far:
#1 Fragrance is the enemy.
Because fragrance recipes are considered trade secret companies do not have to disclose their ingredients but this means we have no clue what goes into them. I noticed that anything unscented consistently had a lower toxicity rating. For example, I scanned my unscented Cetaphil cream expecting it to score terribly but it was only a 5, while my “natural” but heavily scented Body Shop products were a 10.
2# You can’t be perfect.
I know that it is impossible to avoid all of the bad stuff in our environment so I’m trying to use this new information to be mindful and make gradual changes over a period of time. It’s overwhelming to think about all I have to replace so instead I’ll do it one product at a time to keep it reasonable and cost effective. Small changes are still changes.
3# Buzzwords mean nothing.
Companies can put things like “organic” or “natural” on a label with very little backing behind these claims. I was shocked by how many products that rated high looked like smart choices just from the wording on the label. I was looking for a healthier spot treatment option and found one that said “100% naturally derived”. I assumed it would be my best option until I scanned it and it scored a 10!
I’ve been spending a ton of time on this research lately and found it insanely interesting so I thought I’d share. Stay tuned for a list of the positive swaps that I’ve made so far!