I'll admit, it's not often I find a gap in the smart phone app market. It seems the invisible hand has provided - mainly for the low, low price of 99 cents - a smorgasbord of ways for me to manage my life on my iPhone.
I have my Slate app, I have my CameraBag, I have Pandora soothing my frantic thumb--typing with a Ray LaMontagne soundtrack...what more do I need, you ask? Recently I've noticed two apps in particular that could revolutionize personal health - except they don't exist. Here's what I'm thinking:
Cosmetics Safety Database
Remember those frightening stories from last year about the endocrine disruptors in your make-up? Apparently the parabens and pthlatates that make lip gloss so shiny have also been found to cause rat cells to mutate. Parabens have the ability to mimic the hormone estrogen, which may play a role in the development of breast cancer.
We don't quite know what the long-term effects are of regular, low-dose exposure to these chemicals, but I personally don't care to find out. I already live in smog and sit all day, so I'd rather not increase my cancer risk more than I have to.
That's why I now obsessively check the Cosmetics Safety Database, a Web site run by the eco-watchdogs at the Environmental Working Group. It's an easy way to gauge just how toxic various products are without getting a PhD in endocrinology. The site lets you search for, say, "Neutrogena Nourishing Eye Liner" and it will return a rating somewhere between the extremely toxic, bright-red "10" or a relatively-benign, lime-green "1" (for the record, it's a 2).
You can also look at all the ratings by the type of product, like "concealer." Though it's not perfect (most data is "limited," as the EWG puts it), its results have proven surprising: For example, that "Physicians Formula" line, which sounds like it was invented by futuristic doctors, has some of the worst products in the database.
The problem is, people rarely have the foresight to do toxicity research before running to Walgreens for a new tube of mascara, so the database isn't very useful if it can't be accessed when one is actually at the makeup counter. Its search function works well, but only at a computer -- it doesn't even render well on an iPhone.
That's why I suggest an app version of the Cosmetics Safety Database, or at least an equivalent tool. The only possible substitute I've found is Cosmetifique, a database app that lets you search for the ingredients in various products to see where they rate on the bad-for-you scale from "good" to "awful." But checking every ingredient in every conceivable tub of eyeshadow in a store would make you, well, a neurotic health blogger. We need an easier way, like an app version of the Cosmetics Safety Database, to help us choose the safest possible products in every category.
And since most make-up ingredients aren't well-regulated anyway, who knows, maybe a more discriminating consumer base would encourage manufacturers to run their formulas by real physicians and ensure the safety of cosmetics in general.
I love yoga. It soothes sore muscles, helps my ghastly posture, relaxes me and improves my knowledge of various Ayurvedic sayings. I have not one bad thing to say about it. However, I find most yoga classes to either be irritatingly perky or atrociously boring. (Yoga teachers, please unleash your lion's-breath wrath in the comments.)
First, the irritatingly perky kind: The class is prefaced by a little talk by the yoga instructor about how sometimes being stuck in traffic is great because it reminds us that we are all just little chunks of pineapple in the Jello-fruit-salad that is the universe. The class is then punctuated by further drivel about chakras, energy, vibrations and other such metaphysical mythology. If I had wanted church, I wouldn't have had to pay $12.
The opposite of that is the atrociously boring variety: There's no music - not even the wordless "yoga CD" kind. The instructor is only there to whisper the names of the positions, leaving you in a deep silence pierced only by the grunts of your own weak body. It's thanks to these situations that I've gotten very good at reading clocks while upside-down.
The idea of just practicing on my own at home has occurred to me, but unfortunately my self-control usually fails after approximately 12 minutes, and I end up sprawled on my sticky mat watching Colbert.
Which brings me to my next point: I love the news. I love it so much I got a master's degree in it. I often wish the days had more hours so that I could absorb more facts with my brain. My fantasy is this: I want an app that can provide a moderately intense yoga routine while reading the news aloud to me.
The news would come in little Tweet-sized packets - perhaps even taking the form of a live read-out of breaking news headlines on Twitter. In between sentences about the debt ceiling, the yoga/news voice tells you which pose comes next and demonstrates it on your screen. The authoritativeness of the yoga voice, when combined with the natural weightiness of current events, would surely keep any decently dedicated yogi focused and on task.
Think Christiane Amanpour meets Suzanne Somers, or Anderson Cooper meets that guy from P90X. I know it's probably sacrilege to yoga purists, but in the world of dog yoga and yogalates, I really feel that any bastardization goes.
There you have it. Computer geeks, I encourage you to get coding right away, and feel free to cut me a share of your profits for giving you the idea.