Problems with EWG & Think Dirty Apps

Clean Beauty Apps

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EWG vs Think Dirty App:

Are there downfalls to the EWG & the Think Dirty app; two commonly used websites and apps for checking for product safety?


If you know me, you know I've been praising EWG since I got pregnant with my first baby back in 2012. It was my saving grace in a world of overwhelming information...and lack of information about product ingredients and safety. Like many women, I started to really pay attention when I got pregnant.

Both EWG & Think Dirty have great intentions...don't get me wrong. I just want to bring to light some things to think about as you become a more educated consumer.

Think Dirty:

What is Think Dirty?

"Think Dirty is a new app with the stated aim to help consumers learn more about the potential hazards of product ingredients, and to compare brands. The app allows users to scan UPC codes and take photos of cosmetics products to get a hazard score for products based on the individual ingredient scores."

What's great about the app?

Think Dirty's intentions are great - they want to provide consumers with more information about ingredient hazards.

What are the flaws? (Unfortunately, at this time, Think Dirty has quite a few flaws.)

  • There is lack of context about the company policies.

  • Information isn't accurate because of the current scoring methodology.

  • Brands that fully disclose ingredients are compared with some companies that are not disclosing all of their ingredients.

  • Some of the ingredients in Think Dirty score high (the range is 0-10, 10 being a “high hazard”) because of one or more studies indicating that they may be allergens. While individuals with allergies may have reactions to certain ingredients, that doesn’t mean those ingredients are necessarily 'unsafe' to the general population.

  • Other ingredients score high because they may contain impurities. But companies can obtain certificates of purity from suppliers to ensure that ingredients are not contaminated- which isn't taken into account in the Think Dirty score.

  • Preservatives also score high, and to some extent this is understandable, as preservatives are meant to kill microorganisms. But companies that use water in their products have to use preservatives, usually in very small amounts (about 1% of each total product). Think Dirty doesn't take into account the percentage and functional need for these ingredients in some products. (After all, not using preservatives poses a health risk.) It also unintentionally incentivizing cosmetics companies to hide the high-scoring ingredients from ingredient lists. This does not protect consumers’ health or move the market toward safer, more transparent ingredient choices.

EWG (Environmental Working Group)

What is EWG? EWG's App is now called "Healthy Living" (previously Skin Deep) and not only includes cosmetics & personal care product scores, but also includes food scores too. You can also look up scores on their Skin Deep website.

What's great about the app?

They are leading the industry in terms of resources and data​ to help consumers make accurate assessments about the safety of their products. This was my go-to starting point and I still reference the site and app often - they are a great resource and starting point overall.

What are the flaws?

Is EWG an end-all resource and spot on for all their ratings? No. They are continually trying to make it better, but as far as I know, there are still some flaws.

  • As far as I know, EWG (as well as Think Dirty) isn't able to calculate:

  • How much of an ingredient is in the product. This is important because many times safety data points to use-restrictions (meaning at a certain level that ingredient safe, but beyond that level it is unsafe).

  • If two ingredients are in a product, while safe or healthy on their own, when mixed together they form a reaction that is unsafe...for foods, this may mean that they are cooked at high temperatures that change the nutritional value of the food...for beauty or kids products, this could be an ingredient coming in contact with the packaging and creating a formaldehyde release (even though the product is said to be 'formaldehyde-free).

Final Opinion:

While both have flaws ... between Think Dirty & EWG ... EWG is far superior.

At Beautycounter, we take far more info into account in our ingredient selection process when formulating each product. EWG is one source of information for us--not the end all, be all.

In fact, we give preference to ingredients with data over those than have no data - just because there isn't data on an ingredient, doesn't make it safe.

Beautycounter takes into account various information when formulating our products -

  • data points

  • percentage concentrations

  • exposure (intentional or accidental)

  • use restrictions

Those aren't the only things that separate Beautycounter from other companies I've researched.

Beautycounter also:

  • discloses every single ingredient

  • have self-banned over 1500 ingredients (compare that to the 11 that the US have banned and the 1300 that the EU has banned)

  • is continually looking at safety data to make sure our list is accurate...adding to it when necessary

  • is a Certified B Corp (more about that greatness here!)

  • is the only company that I know of that screens every batch of cosmetics for heavy metals

  • is transparent, honest...leading the entire industry to change our outdated beauty laws

  • formulates products that are as high performing as any product on the market...Safety + Performance...with NO compromises.

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