Monday, 22 June 2015

The CosmEthics App: Your Personal Guide to Safe Cosmetics

I have recently started switching all my cosmetics and toiletries to more natural products. Whilst things like parabens, sodium laureth sulfate and triclosan may be easy to spot when reading a product label, I have to admit I have found it tricky to decipher whether other chemicals are safe or not. Some chemicals are irritants and others are thought to contribute to cancer and hormone disruption, as well as being harmful to the environment. It can be time consuming to read labels and Google ingredients, so I was intrigued when I was contacted by a company called CosmEthics, who have created an app that helps people make smart product choices tailored to their individual needs.
The CosmEthics app is free to download on Apple an Android devices. Every product in the CosmEthics database is reviewed for three default alerts, which are linked to research articles and an abstract (overview of research on the hazard ingredient). You will see a red traffic light appear next to the ingredient name, if the product contains an ingredient from the following alert groups: formaldehyde, parabens and phthalates. CosmEthics also has six ready-made alert lists including aluminum (24 ingredients), plastics (16 ingredients), vegan (209 ingredients), fragrance allergens (26 ingredients), chemical sensitisers (colourants) (6 ingredients), chemical sensitisers (preservatives) (3 ingredients). You add any or all of these lists to your alerts depending on the type of ingredients you wish to avoid. 
The app features hundreds of products on its database, which can be added to by users of the app. You can search for a product or brand, or use your phone to scan a product barcode. If the product you scan isn't already on the database, you can take photos of the product and its ingredients and submit it to CosmEthics for them to review and add to the app. If you are the first to submit a product, you are added to a monthly prize draw to win free products.

I found it really easy to scan products and submit photos, however, the camera quality on my Android phone decreased in the app, resulting in images that were blurry and the ingredients lists became illegible. CosmEthics advised me that they are aware of this problem and because there are different versions of Android on market, it takes time to get each version to have a good camera focus. Their IT department are now working on manual uploading feature, which will be live soon. However, despite me uploading blurry pictures, the products I submitted had been reviewed and successfully added to the database within a couple of hours!

 I added all the lists to my alerts. I had a go at scanning a few of my products. Some of them were already on the list but others I was the first person to submit pictures of. Once you've scanned or searched for a product it will tell you whether it is safe, or whether it contains any of the default hazard ingredients or an ingredient(s) on your personal alert list.

You can view the full ingredients list for each product and tap on them to be directed to a Wikipedia page to read more about them. The app also recommends alternative products that it deems safer. You can add a product to your 'washbag' if you already own it, add it to your wishlist, or buy it through the app via Amazon.

One thing that I will mention is that the vegan alert is a little confusing in that it doesn't mean a product is vegan, it means that it contains one or more ingredients that may not be vegan. It is also a little confusing that it flags up potential non-vegan ingredients in products that are definitely vegan (either Vegan Society registered or confirmed as vegan by the company). Therefore if you do not know whether a product is truly vegan, you may need to contact the company to find out. For example, I know that all Jason products are vegan with the exception of a couple of products that contain beeswax. However, this sun cream was flagged by the app because it contains glycerin which can sometimes be of animal origin.

The CosmEthics app also allows you to set up a personal profile, which is linked to your Facebook account. Here you can view your alerts, washbag and wishlist, as well as personalise your skin and hair type.
I decided to see if any cruelty-free products on the database were considered toxic. I searched for Superdrug as although their own brand products are cruelty-free and most are vegan, they do contain a lot of chemicals. Sure enough, some of their products flagged up toxic alerts. Their Naturally Radiant Brightening Day Cream, for example, has an alert for 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol
3-diol (bromopol)
. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (a website that is really handy for information on harmful chemical ingredients), this is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative which is an irritant and carcinogen and is banned from use in cosmetics and toiletries in Japan and Sweden. I was not aware of the dangers of this ingredient before using this app, so I will be careful to avoid it from now on.
from use in cosmetics and toiletries in Japan and Sweden - See more at:

On the other hand, the app does not flag up other ingredients that could be potentially harmful. For example, I have decided to avoid chemical sunscreens such as octocrylene (which can also be found in the Superdrug moisturiser), which is absorbed into the skin and acts as a photosensitiser, resulting in an increased production of free radicals. Free radicals cause DNA damage and can potentially contribute to malignant melanoma, something that is increasingly being seen in sunscreen-users compared to non-users.
I have made a suggestion to CosmEthics that they could include a cruelty-free alert, as not all the products on the app's database are cruelty-free (companies such as L'Oreal, Garnier and Herbal Essences are included for example). They have welcomed my suggestion and say they are going to look into this, so fingers crossed!

I have found the CosmEthics app really easy to use and I have a feeling it is going to come in very handy. If you are concerned about the ingredients in your cosmetics then I would definitely recommend giving it a try, especially when out shopping as it could save so much time studying product labels.

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  1. This is such a good detailed review :) I love the idea of being able to search for ingredients easily, as you said, label reading is some time consuming! x

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  3. I work on a skin care app and we are currently working on Cruelty free filter for products. Great to hear that you would find it useful!

    Your skin care app -

  4. I had no clue there is another app checking whether cosmetics are clean or dirty. I have Think Dirtly and SkinDeep already on my iPhone, but will now test this one. Thanks for the review!

    xx, Anna
    Pattern Of Taste | Our Youtube channel

  5. This is cool stuff! At this age when most people use their devices in almost all the things they do, finding an app that can tell if your cosmetics are safe or not is a welcome idea! Thanks for sharing this interesting post!

  6. Wow awesome!!! Did not know that there is an app that can help you choose safe cosmetics! Like previous comments state, reading labels can be time consuming. This is really handy and will be downloading it now. Thanks for this!

  7. This looks like an awesome app! I can't wait to download it and try to use it! (: Hopefully it has more stuff than other cruelty free product apps I have found. Thank you for posting this! (:


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