What exactly is in your makeup Image Credit: pexels

  • Technology has made it easier to track the ingredients in one's daily use products
  • Women share how apps help breakdown ingredients in skincare and makeup products
  • Some ingredients to look out for and useful apps to download

Dubai: The beauty industry is getting increasingly saturated with new products available on the market every day. However, are consumers aware of the ingredients that go into products they are putting on their bodies?

Various mobile phone applications that break down what’s in cosmetic items are available a click away.

Some of them interpret what the ingredients mean, their toxicity level, how comedogenic they are - which is their tendency to block pores and cause acne, and verify claims such as ‘organic’ and ‘natural’.

Such apps have simplified terminology for everyday consumers to be more aware of the toxins that can go into skincare and make-up items.

How do they work?

Some of these applications have a database that lists thousands of products and one can search for the product we are looking for information on.

Some applications let users scan the ingredient list so that typing in each individual element is not needed. Whereas, others can help decode specific ingredients you might be concerned about.

Some of them breakdown items by having ranking systems and toxicity meters. Additionally, some applications suggest ‘cleaner’ alternatives.

Besides worrying about how harmful some ingredients might be, some consumers have ethical concerns as well, like whether an item is cruelty free, organic, vegan and whether the ingredients were responsibly sourced. Some of these apps can help verify such information, too.

Moreover, cosmetics can come with ambiguous labels such as ‘natural’ and ‘organic’. It is important to note whether such terms are regulated because manufacturers might be getting away with making such claims with plenty of harmful ingredients in their products. The breakdown these applications provide can sometimes help clarify such claims.

Why do women use such apps?

Saving time and money

Bayan Jijakli, 23, civil engineer based in Dubai

“I regularly visit a website and have apps downloaded on my phone that list a number of products available in the market. The website for instance has a ‘safety reading’ for each item and lists if it can cause acne or not. The ingredient list also helps me avoid parabens, artificial colours, mineral oils and dense oils that can clog my pores. I find applications like these really helpful because it saves me from spending time and money on unsuitable products for my skin type.”

Allergy requirements

Raya Khalid, 23, Dubai resident

“I use an app on my phone to check the ingredients of the make-up and skincare products I use. I want to avoid harmful ingredients, especially because I am highly lactose intolerant and milk can give my skin an immediate reaction. Such apps can tell me about products claiming to have ‘real milk’, and I can avoid a possible reaction. I also try to use products with the least amount of ingredients because that means it has the least amount of preservatives and chemicals.”

Digital native

Emen Ali, 18, pupil based in Ajman

“As a digital native and active consumer of the cosmetic industry products, I seek help from a couple of such apps. These apps breakdown just how good or bad a product is for you. I, personally use them because I do not want to feed myself with toxicants. Plus they are user friendly and just take a little effort. It is now becoming a trend to use such apps. I have seen my friends use them and even experts like dermatologists recommend using such apps.”

Five ingredients to look out for:

Mineral oils

Mineral oils are derived from petroleum and can cause damage to the skin. They have a barrier-like effect on the skin and are used to moisturize and smoothen texture, however, they never completely get absorbed into the skin and can become a reflector of the sun, causing sun damage. They can also clog pores.


Talc is a mineral used in a variety of cosmetic and personal care products like baby powders and eye shadows. In its natural form, some talc contains asbestos, a carcinogenic or cancer-causing substance.


When a company lists ‘fragrance’ as one of the ingredients, oftentimes the chemicals that make up the fragrance are not disclosed. This way, irritating and drying ingredients can make their way into products. Try looking for fragrance-free options if you have noticed sensitivity.


Parabens are a class of widely used preservatives to prolong shelf life in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Some of the most commonly used parabens are: butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben. Parabens are known to be absorbed into the body and remain in tissue. They are also linked to breast cancer.

Heavy metals

Heavy metals found in cosmetic products, accumulate in our body in the long run and lead to various health related side effects like cancer. These metals include lead and mercury. Although most of the time such substances are not added as an ingredient, they are present because of contamination during production. Opt for organic products and items with the least amount of ingredients.

Five apps and websites that could help

Think Dirty

This application lists potentially toxic ingredients in each product. It also has a product rating system that is based on the health impacts an item’s ingredients can cause.


This application provides information on varies cosmetic items. It lets the user search for specific products they are looking for and also lets one scan The Universal Product Code (UPC) or barcode on products to get details on its ingredients.


It is a website that has an extensive database of products in the market it has analysed. The site gives information like whether the item has sun protection, how irritating it is, whether it causes acne and also gives an overall safety rating about each product.


Besides allowing users to upload ingredient lists’ images directly of the products, this app lists and breakdowns ingredients used in cosmetic and food products. It states important information like possible allergic reactions linked to an item and its toxicity level.

Detox Me

This application provides a guide for reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals in everyday products. It holds information on various cosmetics.