Skincare Part 2: How to Protect Yourself and Your Family

The Colossal Hoax of Skincare: why your products are tearing you apart from the inside out (and what to do about it)

Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of the Skincare series! First, a quick recap: In part 1 “Why is the U.S. Cosmetic Industry Not up to Snuff? (And why should you care?)”, you learned:

Europe has banned 1,328 ingredients from cosmetics, Canada 587, and the U.S. a mere 11. This means 99.2% of the banned ingredients in Europe are allowed in the United States.

What you put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream in under 30 seconds.

“It’s more dangerous to put a product on your skin than to eat it.” –  Dr. Samuel Epstein

The average woman is exposed to 168 unique ingredients in cosmetics daily.

The average newborn has over 200 chemicals in his or her cord blood, many of which cause harm to the brain and nervous system, and are linked to cancer, birth defects, or abnormal development.

The last legislation regarding the regulation and safety of cosmetics was passed in 1938 – the industry is largely self-regulated.

Here in part 2, we’ll examine how you can protect yourself and your family.

Stay tuned for the rest of the series:

  • In Part 3 (next week) we’ll discuss awesome alternatives.
  • In Part 4 you’ll discover how to make your very own products at home.

If you’re not yet subscribed, be sure to sign up here so you’ll get the next posts in the series via email.


Part 2:

How to Protect Yourself and Your Family

(Without memorizing all 1,328 ingredients banned in Europe)

If you read part 1, you might have been left shell-shocked. After all, if ingredients are banned in Canada and Europe because they have links to or are suspected of causing cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm, or birth defects there, chances are they’re doing the same thing right here in the United States – even more so, in fact, since their use is unrestricted.

How do you ensure the products that you and your family use don’t contain these ingredients or other dangers?


You could sit down with all of your products and the database of banned ingredients in the EU, searching out each ingredient. You could go down the aisle in Target, analyzing each product that claims to be “natural” (which you learned in the last post doesn’t actually mean anything when applied to cosmetics). But who has time for that?

Luckily for you, there’s a super easy way to do it with your smartphone. And the price is right: it’s free. 🙂


This (free!) app makes it super easy

There is an app that will do the full analysis for you, and I highly recommend it. It’s called Think Dirty, and its objective is to empower the user to make educated decisions.

You can screen your products lickety-split and choose the safest option without doing all the research yourself.

It’s very easy to use. Open the app, scan the product barcode with your phone or search by the name or brand, and voila! There’s everything you need to make an educated decision.

It will rate the product on a scale of 1-10, indicating how “dirty” it is. From there, Think Dirty will show you 3 “Dirty Meters” – carcinogenicity, developmental & reproductive toxicity, and allergies & immunitoxicities. This allows you to see how the ingredients in the product might be harmful to your body.

Click the “Ingredients” tab, and you’ll see a color-coded list of ingredients: red means run the other way, green is safe, and yellow is somewhere in between. What I love about the Think Dirty app is that you can click on any ingredient for more information – learn what it’s used for, why it’s a concern, its health impacts, academic research backing the information, and any warnings that have been issued regarding the substance.

The best part? You don’t have to speak chemistry, nor memorize a long list of chemicals – they break it down in plain English.


Let’s walk through it…

Let’s pick on a brand that has always  stood out to me at the baby store: Babyganics. With a name like that, it has to be safe, right?

Search Think Dirty for “Babyganics” and you’ll find a long list of results. The product scores range from a clean 2 to a few very dirty 10s.

Let’s go in depth with one of the dirty 10’s: Babyganics Mineral Based Sunscreen Spray.


Checking out the ingredients, it’s evident that there’s only one of concern: octinoxate.


Tap the ingredient to learn more, and you’ll read: “It is a known and studied endocrine [hormone] disruptor, effecting estrogenic and thyroid activity, affecting several body functions including development, brain and metabolism. Estrogenic disruption has been linked to breast cancer. Avoid use whenever possible.” Under that, you’ll find 13 citations supporting the health dangers of this ingredient, along with warnings from the states of Minnesota and Maine. Yeesh!

So you put the Babyganics sunscreen back on the shelf and wonder what your alternatives are. How are you supposed to find something better?

Think Dirty has you covered there too: select the tab “Our Picks,” and you’ll find a few suggestions to provide your kiddos with sun protection without disrupting their hormones or brains. Win!

I use this app on a regular basis, and I love that I can rely on it to give me the information I need to make safe choices for my family.


What products should you replace, and when?

So you empty your medicine cabinet, purse, and shower caddy into a big pile and start scanning. And you find a mix of ratings. What should you do? Does everything need to be replaced ASAP?

If your daily routine involves products that are classified as dirty, I encourage you to look for other options. You don’t necessarily need to run out and replace your whole skincare regimen immediately – that can be time consuming and expensive. Instead, toss out the worst offenders (the 8’s, 9’s, and 10’s) that you use daily when you’ve found something else to replace them.

Remember the idea of bioaccumulation from part 1? “Bioaccumulation occurs when our bodies absorb substances at a faster rate than we’re able to process and eliminate them.” Focus on the products you use daily first. Then worry about the rest.

If there’s a product you use only occasionally, you might choose to finish it off before you buy a better option – that won’t be accumulating in your system as fast as the others.


The worst ingredients that you need to avoid

You’re likely wondering if there’s a “worst of the worst” list of cosmetic ingredients to avoid. After all, there’s a dirty dozen in food, so why not skincare?

I could do the research and choose some pretty nasty chemicals, but let’s be honest: If I gave you a long list of chemicals that were difficult to pronounce, nevermind remember, would the information stick with you? My guess is no. Instead, I hope you’ll use the app above to get insight into your products and make better decisions.

And if you really do want a list, you can find one here.

The one ingredient I’ll warn you away from is fragrance, because of its unique situation. In what is commonly referred to as the “fragrance loophole,” companies are allowed to label some 3,000 ingredients as fragrance (see the list). The idea is that they should not be forced to give up trade secrets.

But the danger of fragrance is that the 3,000 ingredients that can fall under that label include carcinogenic chemicals, neurotixins, endocrine disrupters, respiratory irritants, narcotics, known allergens, and more. (Source)

Further, fragrance may be present even if a product doesn’t smell perfumed. Sometimes these ingredients are used to cover up an unpleasant smell produced by other ingredients.

If your favorite brands use fragrance, there’s no way to guarantee what noxious components create that smell you enjoy, and whether or not they’re safe. Instead, aim to find something fragrance-free. And if you want a product with a pleasant scent, look elsewhere (next week’s post will give you some ideas).


What’s the moral of the story?

Even though you can’t trust the industry to look out for you, you can look out for yourself and your family – get the free Think Dirty app and do your research!

Start looking closer at ingredients, and you might be surprised by what you find.

Stay tuned for part 3 next week, where we’ll cover some awesome alternatives. Sign up here to receive it in your inbox.

What did you find when you scanned your products? Share your discoveries and thoughts below.


  1. I’m always searching for the healthiest, safest, and most affordable option for skin care and household items. This app is a game changer! Thank you Nicole for sharing about it. I’m totally addicted now! Many of the things we use are rated between a 4-7 but I’m looking forward to replacing them with things rated 3 or less. 🙂

    • So glad it’s been helpful for you, Lucia! Have fun finding your new favorite products. 🙂

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