Lily Tse, founder and CEO of Think Dirty

Lily Tse, founder and CEO of Think Dirty, wants to come clean on the personal care products you use every day. Think your “all natural” face cream is a healthy alternative? Convinced your “organic” lip gloss is the real deal? Think again. They might actually be toxic.

Launched to uncover truths in the cosmetics industry, which is not regulated nearly to the same extent as the food and drug sectors, the free Think Dirty app allows you to search the names or scan the bar codes of over 300,000 common health and beauty products to uncover details about their ingredients, ranking them on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the “dirtiest” in terms of its toxicity.

Due to a family history of cancer, Tse decided to research the many causes of breast cancer, including the ‘toxic’ ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products. Like most women, she never imagined her products contained cancer-causing chemicals, and the more she delved into her research, the clearer it became that she needed to develop a tool to help empower and inform consumers about the products they buy.

“People don’t have time to research all the chemicals in their products, so I wanted to create an app that would make it easier to do so, with the goal of living a healthier lifestyle,” says Tse. “This app gathers all the existing information about each chemical and lists it in an easy-to-read format that will help people make informed choices.”

She started the company as a JOLT cohort member in 2013 with 30,000 products in the database. Since then, the database has grown to 300,000 products and the app has reached three million product scans this year. But this is just the beginning; she still wants to take the company further.

“We want to be a recognizable lifestyle brand that stands for healthy living, cosmetic safety and transparency,” she says. “We’re an app now, and in the future I’d like to develop an information portal on our website and even become the stamp of approval on safe products.”

#HumansofMaRS is a regular series celebrating the startups MaRS works with. Meet other #HumansofMaRS in our Flickr Album. To read more about the high-impact companies we work with, our programs and key successes, read our report: Place Matters

Kara Collins

Kara is the Director, Content Marketing & Communications at MaRS. She helps get the MaRS word out in every (grammatically correct) way possible. See more…