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5-Free Nail Polish Ingredients Decoded


With summer season almost over half way, a pop of cherry red nail polish seems like the perfect complement to your summer outfit. See the long line-up at nail salons, you know it’s time to read a bit more and BYON.

We’ve all heard of 5-free nail polishes, but what exactly are those 5 toxic ingredients? In fact, 3 out of those 5 ingredients are so well-known that they are nicknamed the ‘toxic trio’. Here’s what you need to know:

#1. Toluene. The least harmful of the toxic trio, toluene is a volatile organic compound (VOC) that is found in paints, thinners, and inks. Despite giving nail polish its ability to dry quickly, toluene is still a harmful chemical. The ingredient is also classified by the California Department Of Public Health Occupational Health Branch California Safe Cosmetics Program as cancer-causing. It is especially dangerous for expecting and new mothers, as the chemical can be transmitted to fetuses and infants through the placenta and breast milk. In Europe, this ingredient is banned from all products

#2. Dibutyl phthalate (DBP). DBP is a carcinogen found in paints, plastics, and pesticides that stops nail polish from being brittle. It is classified by the European Union as a suspected endocrine disrupter and Health Canada has linked it to liver and kidney failure in children. Although this ingredient has been banned in Canadian toys, it can still be used unregulated in beauty cosmetics.

#3. Formaldehyde. Similar to DBP, formaldehyde is also classified as a known human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Cancer. It allows nail polish to harden and chip less, but can lead to fatigue, skin irritation, and immune dysfunction in users. This chemical is banned in Europe.

#4. Formaldehyde resin. While similar to formaldehyde, no link between cancer and formaldehyde resin has been found … yet. (For reference, formaldehyde resin is created by mixing toluene and formaldehyde together.) The resin helps strengthen nails, but is a skin allergen and immune system toxicant that can cause dermatitis.

#5. Camphor. Camphor is created by distilling the bark of a camphor tree. Although natural, inhaling or having large exposure to camphor can be toxic, create irritation, and cause seizures in children.

So there you have it. While it’s almost impossible to use a chemical-free nail polish, there are many toxic-free alternatives that are safer. More importantly, the following companies are “three-free”, meaning that they do not contain the toxic trio.

Here are some of our top picks:


Juice from 100% Pure 


For those who are no familiar with Julep, it’s a company created by two friends who produce “five-free” nail polishes in many dazzling colours. If you love Julep’s products (and their promise to be three-free) as much as we do, you can pay a subscription to receive Maven, a monthly customized beauty box full of five-free nail polishes. 

Whether to wear at home, at work, or at the beach with your favourite summer outfit, we love it when your nail polish makes you feel beautiful – inside and out. Think Dirty, Stay Clean!


Waves filled with trash. 

And it’s getting worse 

and worse.

Trash wave, Indonesia. 


"Awareness" can only go so far. What is needed are simple route to action.

So, Here’s an idea from TM™

Viewers should be able to roll over each product in each of these images of trash in nature.

There, they can find a brand, a manufacturer, etc;

then they can click-to-send a demand for sustainable packaging options.

And they can share it across social media.

List out the worst offenders, and attempt to track it all back.

Do it for all photos, in the pacific garbage patch, etc. 

It’s simple way to activate these photos. If you have the resources and the reach, contact me and I’ll give a free consultation/ blueprint on how to get it done. 

Less talk. More action.


We should also ban the microbead.

All those facial scrubs with ‘Microbead’ cleansers? Just tiny bits of plastic companies put into their products – allowed to wash down drains into the ocean to mess with ecosystems.

Guess they were hoping you wouldn’t notice:

'Polyethylene' is just another word for plastic.


[ Plastic bird from NPR story on Chris Jordan’s photography work ]

Mother’s Day, CFC IdeaBOOST Launchpad, Indiegogo

Mother’s Day is Today!

Spring / Summer is here! Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms in the the world! Think Dirty is a project inspired by my mom’s triumph over cancer, so today has special meaning to me. Hope all of you will take a moment to show your appreciation to your moms. For the beautiful weather today, take a stroll out and treat her to high tea in the park would just be wonderful.


CFC IdeaBOOST Launchpad

Last Thurs, I went presented Think Dirty at CFC IdeaBOOST Launchpad event at Steam Whistle Brewery. Being live on stage is not the most fun experience, considered no one will consider public speaking as their favourite thing to do. Based on my friends and audience’s feedbacks, they thought my pitch went smoothly and couldn’t tell at all I have been flying 3 time zones in the past 2 weeks, with only a few hour of sleep previous night. I guess all that rehearsals did pay off in the end. Nonetheless, I was excited to announce our Indiegogo campaign on stage, I meant every word I said:

"Supporting Think Dirty is not just supporting a mobile app, it’s supporting a consumer movement of voting safe products with your hard-earn dollars."

So if you stumbled upon this posting, hope you would support a project that bring health, beauty and consumer advocacy in a meaningful and fun way.


Special offer from 21 Bundles

To wrap up this post, we are also partnering with 21 Bundles to bring you a special Mother’s Day offer. 25% OFF for your first bundle. Their brands are mostly rated 0-3, as well as tailored for new moms and their new borns.


Until next time,





New :  *Scan for Toxic Chemicals* App!


New app lets you quickly scan cosmetics to see if they’re potentially toxic


We’re trying not to freak out, but THIS MIGHT BE THE BEST APP EVER.


The free app will tell you if shampoo or makeup contains potentially toxic chemicals (“BHA / BHT, PEGs, petrochemicals, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde releasing agents, siloxanes, sulfates, fragrance/parfum and non-biodegradable ingredients”). 


Reports Ecouterre:

Users can scan a product in question, and immediately learn if it is “clean” or “dirty.” If deemed dirty, the app will offer similar and safe alternatives to buy instead. The app can also be used to raid your own bathroom closet and get rid of old products that could be unsafe.

There’s even a handy iPhone case reminding you what to watch out for in shampoo.


Grab the free app here!




Demystify Cosmetics Labels With “Think Dirty” Smartphone App, Ecouterre

Also: Think Dirty App Scans Your Personal Care Products Looking for Toxins



Think Dirty: App Review


My world has been busy these days, but I’m back to talk beauty because even though I’ve been doing a billion other things, I’m thinking around the clock about everything I want to share with you!

Just yesterday, a friend told me about ‘Think Dirty,’ an app that tells you how toxic your personal care and beauty products are by carcinogenicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity and allergies and immunotoxicities. You can scan your product barcode (great when you’re shopping, but potentially terrifying when the product is already in your medicine cabinet), or searching their database of 81K + products. I’m not necessarily the most committed to using all-natural and organic products, but I’m definitely open to experimenting with natural alternatives. I’m currently loving coconut oil and tea tree oil and use them regularly in my regimen, combined with my other chemical-ridden products. And while I was already expecting many of those to be pretty toxic, it was still pretty alarming to see many of them scanned in as 9s and 10s, 10 being the most toxic. And even more alarming, still, was seeing their carcinogenic toxicity - scary stuff!

photo 77E5E06A-E700-4E7C-B379-1AA10D772A92_zpsccpbufqj.png

photo 7831BBDD-873A-40B8-9505-72475C2AB21F_zpsldfs2rp3.png

My scans included my Lady Speed Stick (yikes!) and Revlon’s Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain (a current favorite — all their new balms are so moisturizing!), which came in at a 6. This was probably one of my less toxic products - go Revlon!

Read More


We’re using an increasing number of cosmetic products on a daily basis, but as the beauty industry isn’t required to list ALL of the ingredients on their product labels, it begs the question; do we really know what we’re putting on to our skin? The Think Dirty app is designed to help consumers to make more informed choices about the products they use. Users can either search for a product using the app’s extensive database or scan the product’s bar code to see a full list of the ingredients it contains. Ingredients are given a “Think Dirty” rating fro 0-10, based on their potential toxicity.

We just realized we are famous in the UK!

Launch Festival Recap, #femalefoundersconference, DX3 Canada, Expo West and many more!

February and March have been busy months for us. We were travelling all over San Francisco, Anaheim, CA, and back in Toronto!

Launch Festival

Feb 24 - 26 we were in San Francisco demoing our app at Launch Festival thanks to the generous Demo Pit scholarship. We met lots of great people. Our swags proved to be quite popular and attracted an unusual amount of male attendees’ attention. 


On March 1, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend an invite-only first time ever conference hosted by Y-Combinator for female founders only. The experience was phenomenal. In total 5 Y-Combinator alumnus were speaking. You can see the most amazing recap here and here. It’s likely the first time I felt most at ease, with no need to explain why Think Dirty is needed. Almost every single attendee I spoke to can relate to why our app is something missing in the misinformed consumer space. In addition, being in a room full of aspiring women all aiming to achieve something bigger than themselves was an honourable and humbling experience, thank you for the opportunity, Jessica Livingston!

DX3 Canada

After Launch Fest, we were busy at DX3 Canada's CFC IdeaBOOST booth. I sat down with Amber Mac from App Central for Tech Spotlight, who generously mentioned us in November 2013. 

Expo West 

This year’s show has once again surpassed the number of audience from last year to 34,000 attendees, met with some great brands and pioneers in the natural product space. See some recaps below:

Last but not least, we were mentioned by Lululemon on their company blog.

We are flattered and excited that the yogis will learn more about us. For all Toronto peeps, in March we will be at Girls in Tech Toronto March 25.

And then will be demoing at Tech in Motion in April. If you are in Toronto, be sure to check us out in warmer spring night.

Last but not least, we have a very honourable mention from Jason Calacansis, Founder of and Launch Festival on his twitter and his new inside app news!

Till next time,


P.S. Spring is here (sort of). Spring clean while thinking dirty!

See you at Launch Festival Demo Pit!


We are happy to announce that we won the Demo Pit Scholarship at Launch Festival! So we are going to San Francisco on Feb 24 - 26, come see us at the event!

If you are from the area and love to connect with us during Feb 24 - March 2, say hello at



App Update for iOS 7 + What are We Up to Lately?

I am happy to announce that after 2 months of hard work, we have updated our app to include these exciting features in the latest v1.1 update!

  • Notifications: We got overwhelmingly positive response for user submissions. With this new feature, any product submitted or liked by you, we will send you a notification to see it’s rating once it’s inputed in database. We also will let you know if the rating of a product is changed due to regulations or change of formulations, if that product is liked or saved by you. We work diligently to input your submissions, and we want you to be the first to know! 
  • Badges: We want to reward you for your hard work for learning ingredients. Since we launched in August, you have earned your bragging rights, you will now see them in badges. The most you earn, the more you collect! Show them off, and share and tag us, we would love to hear from you.
  • Improved searched and iOS 7 compatible: We improved overall searches accuracy and the performance for iOS 7. If you notice anything not right, please send us feedbacks at
  • Methodology explained in details: There were lots of questions regarding how we rate products. So we expanded and dived deep in the full scope of how we rate products. Tap the rating box or Settings > Our Rating System to learn the Think Dirty difference.


We also got quite a few mentions in the press:

Check out others including, Huffington Post, Grist, Ecouterre, App Central, BetaKits and many others at buzz section of our site.

We had a blast visiting Austin and San Francisco. Here are some of the highlights from the shows:

As always, love to hear your feedbacks, write us at


P.S. Think Dirty blog turned 1 today! Happy Birthday to us.