I started my responsible consumption project with my toiletries. Partially because once I downloaded the Think Dirty App I was completely addicted (seriously, who can resist your own personal barcode scanner?!), and partially because I already try to buy “clean” and wanted to put my efforts to the test.
Several years ago, I learned of a suspected link between antiperspirants and breast cancer. Since I have a family history, I decided to end my relationship with antiperspirant and switch to natural deodorant. Whether or not there is a link is up for debate. The Canadian Cancer Society indicates antiperspirants do not increase the chance of breast cancer; the naturopathic community (which is also science-based) cites different studies in favour of a link. For me, the potential downside of antiperspirants seemed to be much worse than the upside – I still sweat through them anyways. Through trial and error, I landed on a deodorant that works really well and I haven’t looked back.
Since my paradigm shift in odour control, I’ve tried to purchase other products that do not contain harmful ingredients. It’s tough. Labeling claims are dubious (there are no laws around what can be called “natural”), I don’t have a chemistry degree (you almost need one to be able to read the labels), and there’s so much conflicting information it makes my head spin. So, I scanned all products that my hubby, kids and I use on Think Dirty. I was pretty pleased with the results. We were in the 0-4 range (0 being “Clean” and 10 being “Stay the heck away”).
I learned that there are almost no conventional products (i.e. what’s sold at Shopper’s Drug Mart) that rate well, and the grocery store “natural” brands vary widely in their ratings. The products only available from health food stores had the lowest (i.e. best) ratings. You really do pay for what you get.
I chose Think Dirty as my primary tool because it has a more straightforward rating methodology and more information on the app than Skin Deep. They’re both trying to meet the same goal, they just have some differing opinions on some ingredients. If you’re interesting in understanding more about the products you’re using, I suggest you pick one app and use that for your primary source of information (if you’re not an iPhone user that rules out Think Dirty for now). If you’re surprised by a result, or want a second opinion, try the other for a quick comparison. You can also check out some low-tech ingredients-to-avoid-lists and other resources here.
Do your best and forget the rest.
During my product audit, I reviewed all the ingredient details before deciding to ditch products that didn’t rank 0-3, since not all product warnings worry me that much (i.e. potential skin irritation on products that haven’t caused a problem). I also compared a few with Skin Deep’s ratings and found yet more conflicting information. Based on the description of risks on each site, I’m deciding what I’m happy with and what I’d like to replace. I’m trying not to over analyze and to use my best judgment based on the information provided. If there’s one quote for this exercise, it would be “do your best and forget the rest.” There are lots of products I’ve used in the past that I wouldn’t touch now, and I’m sure my comfort level with certain ingredients will continue to evolve. But I will not beat myself up over it. I will re-evaluate with new information and move forward.
It’s easy to get carried away, especially if you’re competitive (who, me?). Anything less than a “clean” rating inspired a visceral reaction that I’m harming myself and my family. While I fully support the notion that what goes on our bodies goes in our bodies, I have to also weigh likely side effects with cost and usability of the product. So, like any tool, Think Dirty should be part of your decision-making process. But at least it’s there to help you with the ingredient analysis part!