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Think Dirty, Buy Clean

Lily Tse’s dream of reforming public health has been in the works since age 11, when doctors diagnosed her mother with breast cancer. A second round of cancer hit when Tse was in her 20s, and she remembered the draining battle her mom had already fought. Out of curiosity and love, she began researching possible causes of breast cancer and came across Annie Leonard’s Story of Cosmetics, which examines the pervasive use of toxic chemicals in everyday personal care products. “The more I delved into [the topic], the clearer it became that I needed to develop a tool to help empower and inform consumers about the products they buy,” explains Tse, the creator of Think Dirty®, an app that evaluates ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products and identifies potential dangers such as possible carcinogens and allergens.


Think Dirty launched three years ago and offers more than 350,000 product evaluations with dozens, if not hundreds, of new additions each month. App users submit brands and products they’d like to see graded, and companies themselves submit their ingredient lists to Think Dirty. “Each ingredient listed on the product label or manufacturer’s website is evaluated for documented evidence of potential carcinogenicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergenicity and immunotoxicity,” Tse says.


Rising consumer awareness drives Think Dirty’s success. “Consumers are definitely far more conscious of what they are eating and putting in their bodies compared to five years ago,” Tse says. “They prefer organic, vegan, cruelty-free and natural products made out of simple ingredients that are easy to read.”


To meet consumer needs, Think Dirty now offers a monthly beauty box filled with reviewed and vetted products curated from sources, business partners and personal scouting. And while business is booming, Tse’s eye remains on her long-term goal: She hopes to see a shift in the cosmetic, personal care and beauty industry to include healthier formulations for products and more transparency for consumers.


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