Beauty without pain
THE cosmetic industry is one of the fastest growing in Pakistan. A famous professor of dermatology at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Islamabad, says there has been a sharp increase in skin problems associated with cosmetics in the past few years.
While skin problems are visible, cosmetics could have other hazardous impacts on health. Several research studies have revealed that the skin may absorb up to 60% of the chemicals in products.
Another study, conducted in USA, has also revealed that complaints made against beauty goods more than doubled from 2017 to 2018, with hair care products topping the list.
According to dermatologists, beauty products may not yield the projected results. On the contrary, substandard quality, grade, harmful compositions can result in allergies, discolouration, texture alteration or permanent damage to the skin or hair.
Increased usage and unregulated production has led to steep rise in side effects suffered by the consumers, especially younger to middle aged women.
The most common chemical found in beauty products is paraben, which is used as preservative in deodorants, moisturisers, shampoos, body wash and makeup, and increases the chances of breast cancer. Its chemical structure is similar to estrogen and it can be carcinogenic even in tiny amounts.
It is estimated that nearly all of the applied lipstick is ingested by the user and the metals find their way into the body.
On an average a woman applies lipstick about 2.5 times daily and uses 24 milligrams (mg) of it. Those who slather it on could be using as high as 87 mg of lipstick a day.
The California researchers found that women who use lipsticks could be ingesting a significant amount of aluminium, cadmium, chromium and manganese. In case of average use, the estimated intakes of the metals were more than 20 per cent of their accepted daily intake (ADI) limits.
ADI is the maximum amount of a toxin that a person can be exposed to without any appreciable health risk.
Meanwhile, formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers found in nail products, hair dye, hair straighteners, false eyelash adhesives, cosmetic glues and some shampoos, is also linked to causing cancer and can also damage the immune system.
There’s also ethanolamine, which contains impurities like nitrosamines and is usually not listed on product labels.
It’s actually a respiratory, skin and organ cancer causing toxicants, and is usually found in soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners and dyes, shaving creams, eyeliners, mascara, fragrances and sunsblock creams.
Triclosan, found in most antibacterial soaps and deodorant, causes skin irritation and infection.
Used as an antimicrobial agent in personal care products, it can act as endocrine disruptor and disturb thyroid, testosterone and estrogen regulation, leading to issues like early puberty, poor sperm quality, infertility, obesity and cancer.
If children are exposed to this at an early age, they have an increased chance of developing allergies, asthma and eczema.
Hydroquinone, usually found in skin-lightening products, certain cleansers and moisturisers, is another harmful drug which can cause ochronosis and hence leave ‘disfiguring and irreversible’ blue-black lesions on exposed skin.
Many fairness creams also contain steroids which cause skin damage, thinning, redness, colour alteration and acne, apart from hydroquinone or mercury, which have been associated with cancers.
Coal tar, ethoxylated surfactants and 1,4-dioxane (by-product obtained from adding carcinogenic ethylene oxide to make other chemicals less harsh, usually used in baby washes), lead (used in lipstick and hair dye, but never listed because it’s a contaminant, not an ingredient), mercury (can impair brain development) and mineral oil (which creates a film that impairs the skin’s ability to release toxins) are some of the other harmful ingredients used in manufacturing cosmetics.
Even basic products like hand sanitisers and hair straighteners can cause more damage than expected.
Hand sanitisers are effective in killing germs but excessive use can also kill the good bacteria, exposing your skin to the allergic elements. When it comes to beauty products, less is better! You are likely to damage your skin more by using all these products.
Always opt for a routine body check-up and use good alternatives to beauty products like an organic face wash instead of a chemical one, pomegranate seeds instead of lip gloss, aloe vera gels as great moisturising agent and coconut oil instead of harmful body lotions.
Always choose products that are labelled noncomedogenic as that ensures the product doesn’t cause skin irritation. Also opt for products with fatty alcohols like cetyl, cetearyl, lanolin or stearyl alcohol which works as good moisturisers.
As a signatory to the Minamata Convention on Mercury and with a growing network of unauthorized, illegally marketed cosmetic products, the government of Pakistan is working hard to achieve objectives to streamline authorization of a pure-cosmetic supply chain in the market.
Pakistan is trying to strengthen relevant institutes like the Pakistan National Accreditation Council, Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA), Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan to implement a quality-management system for regulation of the manufacture, import, sale and distribution of all cosmetic products.
The Punjab government has approved a Drug and Cosmetics Amendment Act by which all cosmetic-sale points will need to be licensed for the provision of genuine products through the original supply chain.
The consumers have a right to be aware of the consequences of buying unauthorized, toxic cosmetics and the government should ensure a standard supply chain into markets with safety data for all local and imported items.
—The writer is a senior public health scientist.