New smart phone apps, such as Skin Deep and Think Dirty, are aiming to change the way consumers shop for beauty products. The apps allow shoppers to scan products on the spot to find out a product’s ingredient list. Some apps rank a product based on their ingredients, which can encourage or deter a sale. 

With a database of more than 78,000 products, the makers of the Skin Deep app hope to use its low-to-high toxicity score as a way to steer people away from items that contain ingredients such as parabens and formaldehyde, which they said are a danger to consumers.

“I think [the beauty industry] should be concerned. The public is becoming more aware of the dangers [of certain chemicals] and they are looking out for these ingredients,” said Nneka Leiba, Deputy Director of Research for the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Since 2004, EWG’s online Skin Deep database has received over 200 million visits and currently reviews over 2,500 companies. The Skin Deep app is the natural next step in EWG’s crusade to eradicate the use of chemicals that they deem hazardous, despite the fact that companies are within their legal rights to use many of them.

“Since we’ve started Skin Deep we have seen a greater influx of green companies wanting to join the database, and even more importantly I think our attempt to educate the consumer has been extremely beneficial. I think the consumers are pushing the manufacturers to change. In the past year we have seen many companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, vow to stop using problematic ingredients in the future,” added Nneka.

Similarly, makers of the Canadian-based Think Dirty app, which was released through the iTunes App Store this summer, hope to influence its current 30,000 users away from products containing petrochemicals and synthetics.

“I want to appeal to a younger woman to change the way she looks at beauty products. Younger girls follow magazines and the products are usually rated in them based on superficial properties. I want [young girls] to know that health should not come at the price of beauty,” said Lily Tse, founder of Think Dirty.

Lily is able to track what products consumers are most curious about. Some of the more popular researched products include shampoo, lip gloss and argan oil.

“Companies that strive to be innovative and follow consumer-trends might change [because of this]. The only reason consumers never had the power to drive what ingredients were being used is because they didn’t know any better. But now they do,” added Lily.