conversations with coco

A Conversation with Lily Tse



I recently had a conversation with Lily Tse, founder of the Think Dirty app. With her family having a history of cancer, Lily decided to take matters into her own hands and become knowledgeable about what exactly goes into our most tried and trusted beauty products. When she learned of all the harmful things we willingly put onto our skin, she decided to create the Think Dirty app to share her knowledge and help us make informed decisions about purchasing our everyday cosmetic essentials. Find the full interview below!


You’ve created an app that my mother put me onto a few months ago.  She kept asking me: Do you know what’s in that?  As I put on beauty products.  When I finally got fed up with all of her knowledge I asked her how she knew, and she pulled up your app!  How did you come up with such a genius idea that we both now can’t live without?

I grew up interested in skincare because of my mother. She’s a very frugal person, but when it came to skincare, she splurged with her very humble teacher’s salary. My concerns about skincare products and their contents grew when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time. I also personally have a mild allergy to fragrances and it wasn’t until I stumbled across Annie Leonard’s “Story of Cosmetics”,  which examined the widespread use of toxic chemicals in the beauty industry, that I discovered the causes—phthalates, common in synthetic fragrances, were likely triggering my reactions, and making them worse. Appalled by the thought of using serious chemicals on my skin, I began doing my own research. That’s how Think Dirty was born. It is a project born out of a personal passion to find the truth in the beauty industry. Think Dirty lets us take back the collective purchasing power of informed consumers.


If someone had a great idea for an app what should their next step be?

Validate with a low-cost prototype, mockup with some potential customers. Don’t even bring developer in the picture yet, building a one-page landing page or Facebook page. Get early feedbacks and iterate.


Why is what we eat just as important as what we put on our body?

Skin is our largest organ. Studies show that long term, low dosage exposure is equally concerning, especially for carcinogenic substances. Especially when there’s a trend which beauty products are being marketed to younger target consumers.


What is a piece of advice you would give a woman getting into the tech field?

Don’t worrying about being liked and “blending in”. If you are a visible minority, you stand out. And it’s not a bad thing. As a woman, you might be building a business targeting a customer base just like you. Being a woman founder gives you the ultimate advantage, that is, understanding your customers better than any other male founders.


What is the best thing and the worst thing about running your own business?

Best is the autonomy and freedom. You control your own destiny. The worst is uncertainty and change. Every day there are new challenges thrown at you. With every risk also comes the rewards. Ultimately I won’t trade it for anything else.


Have you tried the app? What have you learned about your favourite products?


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