G.I. Joe said it best — knowing is half the battle. You owe it to yourself, your health, your body, your skin, and your loved ones to make informed choices by knowing the ingredients in the beauty products and cosmetics you use.

For some, the “Cruelty Free” bunny logo is paramount, since it indicates that a product is not tested on animals. But what about items labeled as “natural” or “organic?” Many marketing campaigns use those words interchangeably and things can get tricky. As Think Dirty notes, the term “natural” isn’t regulated. Therefore, it can be misleading.

In order to better educate yourself and because knowledge is indeed power, there are plenty of apps to help you decode the terminology and to understand the toxicity (or lack thereof) regarding ingredients. Their sole function is to help you understand the ingredients in your beauty products. There are accompanying websites, too.


It might seem unfathomable that cosmetics companies use toxic ingredients in their products in 2018. In order to wade through the informational either, below are five apps to help you to understand what you are using and what those ingredients with the really long and science-y names actually do.

These apps help you determine just how good or bad products are for you. They are super easy to use and take the guess work out of shopping.

1. Think Dirty

Think Dirty is the Holy Grail of apps — it’s free, easy to use, and comprehensive. It offers incredible detail about what’s in your personal care products and translates the information so you can easily process and understand it.

Courtesy of Amy Sciarretto

All you have to do is scan a product bar code and Think Dirty will generate its “Dirty Meter” report on the ingredients and offer suggestions for cleaner alternatives. The database contains over 550,000 products and you can shop clean.

2. GoodGuide

Courtesy of Good Guide

The GoodGuide site and app are incredibly thorough. The app is also free. Like many of its peers, GoodGuide “uses product ingredient information coupled with authoritative sources for chemical regulations to rate products so that consumers can have instant access to credible product information that is easily understood.” Basically, it does all of the leg work for you through research and analysis — easily explaining why an ingredient might be of concern.

Courtesy of Good Guide

This ingredients list from a bottle of drugstore shampoo is color-coded to indicate levels of concern related to ingredients.

3. CosmEthics

Courtesy of CosmEthics

CosmEthics is a European app that analyzes a product when you scan the bar code. It does so in seconds. If better-for-you alternatives exist, CosmEthics will let you know. Like other apps of this ilk, it has a database of thousands of products and its information is gathered from manufacturers and retailers. You can also personalize the app for your shopping and product preferences.

4. EWG Healthy Living

There are so many products on shelves that it can make choosing the safest ones a daunting task. The Skin Deep website and Healthy Living App are part of the Environmental Working Group. That org’s mission is to “empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. With breakthrough research and education, we drive consumer choice and civic action.” The group uses the “EWG VERIFIED” mark. When a product has this distinction, you know it’s free from EWG’s chemical concerns.

5. Detox Me

Courtesy of Detox Me

Detox Me is also free and uses research to help reduce a consumer’s exposure to potentially harmful chemicals in all household products, including beauty items. The apps ethos is that knowledge is “a prescription for prevention.” It allows you to track your progress in terms of eliminating toxic products, offers tips for choosing safer ones, and decodes often confusing labels and terminology. It also recommends alternatives.

Any or all of these apps will help you make better, more informed choices.

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