Do you know what’s (actually) in your skincare product? Sure, the packaging tells you that it contains potent, active ingredients like collagen-boosting Peptides, hydrating Hyaluronic Acid, and brightening Vitamin C.
But what about everything else you don’t see – but still end up putting on your face? At this point, you may be wondering, “Well, why does that matter?” That’s understandable.
With everything that’s going on in your life, the idea of poring over the tiny fonts on a product’s ingredient label doesn’t exactly sound tempting.
Although, there's a good argument (several pieces of them, in fact) for why you should still check your skincare ingredients. Explore them below. Psst: this article also shows you a "hack" that'll help you run through any product's ingredient label at record-breaking speed, so make sure you stay till the end.
Why check skincare ingredients?
First things first. What’s up with all the fuss about checking skincare ingredients?
#1: Avoid harmful skincare ingredients
Answer: dermal absorption. Put simply, the skincare ingredients you apply to your face could get past your epidermis (i.e., the skin's outermost layer), glands, or hair follicles – and into your bloodstream, circulating to other areas of the body.
That's how your "actives" in skincare products work, after all. But while this absorption is coveted for safe, effective ingredients, the opposite holds for "toxic" ones.
For instance, here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of the many harmful ingredients your skin could be sopping up without your knowledge, along with their potential health consequences:
- Endocrine disruptors: Phthalates, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), triclosan, and polyethylene glycols (PEGs) have all been linked to hormone disruption, which could potentially contribute to reproductive and genital defects, hormonal imbalances, and infertility (1).
- Carcinogens: Diethanolamine, formaldehyde, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are just some examples of skincare ingredients that may increase your risk of certain cancers (2). Formaldehyde, for instance, is associated with an increased risk of nasopharynx and leukemia cancers (3).
- Toxic to specific organs: Skincare ingredients may also be harmful to non-reproductive organs (e.g., kidneys and liver). Examples include triethanolamine, parabens, and hydroquinone (4, 5). We're not trying to scare you here, but hydroquinone is known to contribute to fatal liver and kidney damage (6). You read that right: fatal.
- Irritants: In the best-case scenario, the toxic skincare ingredients found in your products are irritating (or cause allergic reactions). Some of the top offenders in this category include synthetic perfumes, sulfates, and various metals (7, 8).
#2: Ensure that your product is 100% vegan
Of course, it isn’t enough simply to avoid the harmful skincare ingredients mentioned earlier. In general, steering clear from synthetic chemicals is always a good idea – which naturally leads you to the only alternative: 100% natural skincare.
And, of course, those concerned about animal welfare and environmental sustainability (as we all should!) will do one better and opt for 100% vegan skincare products.
And yes, something worth mentioning here is this: natural, vegan skincare ingredients can provide effectiveness on par with their chemically synthesized counterparts. Sans all the harmful effects on your body, animals, and Mother Earth. It's a win-win-win situation.
The only problem? Sometimes, it isn't immediately clear if a product is free of animal by-products. And that means you'll have to screen through its ingredient label.
#3: Gauge the “effectiveness” of your product
Oh, and another reason to check your skincare ingredients? It helps you get a good idea of the concentration of the active ingredients a product contains.
To understand why that matters, well, think about it this way. Just because a moisturizer contains Collagen doesn't mean it'll help you keep the wrinkles at bay. It's not just what's in a formulation that matters – but also how much of the ingredient is within.
But how can you get this information without sending your product to a lab? In general, ingredients are listed in descending order of concentration on the labels.
So, if you see Collagen (your product’s supposed “hero ingredient”) towards the end of the ingredient list, those alarm bells should start ringing!
Think Dirty: an easy way to check skincare ingredients
Alright. So, you now know why you simply can’t afford to turn a blind eye to all the ingredients that are inside your beauty products.
Still … that knowledge isn’t going to save you from the hassle of going down your product’s label ingredient by ingredient – and the inevitable 800 Google tabs associated with the process. Thankfully, there exists something that would do all the hard work for you, and it's none other than the Think Dirty app (9).
Now, a little background on the app. The founder and CEO of Think Dirty, Lily Tse, started the company back in 2012 to help consumers easily find information on skincare ingredients, enabling them to make an informed decision on what products to purchase.
A decade on, Think Dirty has upwards of 3,700 brands and 2.03 million products in its database (rest assured that you’ll find what you’re looking for on the app!)
How to use Think Dirty
Best of all, Think Dirty is incredibly easy to use. All you need to do is simply open the app (available to download for free on both the Apple app store and Google Play Store) – and scan the barcode on your skincare product. You’ll then get access to the following information:
- Overall product rating (Dirty Meter™ score): Products scoring 0 to 3 do not contain any ingredients which have a documented potential negative health impact; those scoring 4 to 7 contain ingredients that have potential moderate adverse long term health effects, and those scoring 8 to 10 are formulated with ingredients that have potentially severe adverse long term health effects.
- Individual ingredient rating: The app also dives into every ingredient found in a particular product – categorizing them into “dirty”, “half n’ half”, or “clean” based on their characteristics. Best of all, the app remains strictly science-based while providing easy-to-understand explanations.
- Other information: Is the product cruelty-free? Non-GMO? 100% vegan? Get your answers on Think Dirty.
Sounds good? Give it a try now! Have your Think Dirty app ready and grab something from your vanity drawer to scan; you may end up (pleasantly, we hope) surprised at what you learn!
How did Terrakai Skin score with Think Dirty?
Oh, and just so you know: we were so impressed by the Think Dirty app that we reached out for a partnership – and had them thoroughly and independently vet through five of our products. Here’s how we scored:
Ready for natural, performance-driven skincare products?
How did we do compared to your existing products? Well, if you’re ready to incorporate highly effective, botanically-driven skincare products that are kind to your health, animals, and Mother Earth, then download our FREE Guide on how to switch to a natural skincare routine (note: you can’t do it all at once!)