Did you know that your favourite bottle of shampoo could contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that is also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity? Or that your nail polish may contain chromium, another deadly carcinogen and mutagen…
We seem to spend so much time worrying about what we put IN our body but not nearly as much time stressing about what we put ON our body – something that can be just as damaging to our health.
But what if I told you that there was a game changing app on the market that can tell you exactly what is in your beauty products?
Introducing Init the free Aussie app that all us beauty junkies have been waiting for!
Init takes into account the ingredients and chemical composition of your cosmetic products and alerts users to the potentially harmful chemicals that are present in their items, giving an overall recommendation of whether or not the product is safe to use. No more worrying about whether your new mascara is going to make your eyelashes fall off or if your cleanser is going to make you age ten years overnight!
Question: What is the Init app?
Tim McDonald: Init is a health rating analyser for food and cosmetic products. You can scan a barcode of any food or beauty product and the app provides a "healthiness" score out of 100, according to scientific guidelines.
Question: What originally inspired you to create Init?
Tim McDonald: It started when I read a news article about harmful ingredients being allowed for use in Australian cosmetics and foods. Then I looked for an app to help identify those products and there wasn't one. A year later Init was born.
Question: How important is it to think about what we put on our body as well as what we put in it?
Tim McDonald: For me it's really simple: good health starts with what we consume and what we come in contact with! Your skin is the largest organ of your body. Some chemicals can and do enter your bloodstream through application to the skin, so it's safer to avoid those harmful chemicals on the chance they are entering your bloodstream. Alternatively some beauty ingredients aren't toxic but do cause allergic reactions for a large number of people. Isn't it better to avoid those too?
Question: Once the app tells us what is in our beauty product, does it explain the issues associated with certain ingredients?
Tim McDonald: The app aims to identify any product ingredients with potential health concerns: ie, is it a potential carcinogen, endocrine disruptor, allergen or irritant? If the app identifies a chemical with a potential health risk, it provides citations to the relevant scientific sources so the User can read more about it.
Question: How does this rating system work?
Tim McDonald: Init scores beauty products on the basis of each ingredient contained in the product - ie, what's "in it"?
Ingredients are classified into four risk categories:
• No Risk (green dot)
• Low risk (yellow dot)
• Medium risk (orange dot)
• High risk (red dot)
If a product contains chemicals with a potentially high health risk, that product will score worse than a product with "lower risk" ingredients.
Question: What are the main ingredients and harmful chemicals we should be avoiding in our skincare?
Tim McDonald: Questions like this is one of the main reasons we wanted to create the app as it's almost impossible to remember all of the names and "trade names" of the high-risk chemicals used in beauty products. One example is "Lyral", a fragrance that causes itchy rashes in a significant number of people. It's also known as "Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde", "Kovanol", "Mugonal" and "Landolal". Not exactly easy names to remember!
Question: Are there specific brands that outperform others, on the app?
Tim McDonald: There may be but it really does depend on each individual product scanned. There's 10,000s of beauty products in the database. A single brand might produce both "excellent", "good", "mediocre" and "bad" products. It would require a fairly huge analysis to assess whole brand ranges against each other and single some out.
Question: What's next for the Init app?
Tim McDonald: Our hope is that word continues to spread and our users continue to contribute new products to the database. There are scores of new beauty products released into the market daily and our database is kept up to date thanks to submissions by the app's own users. We've had exceptionally positive feedback from the users, it's surpassed our expectations!
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Photo credit: Little Alfie Photography