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Beauty and its pitfalls

As beauty products containing formaldehyde, a cancer trigger, come under the scanner, experts say it’s time to revamp your beauty regimen.

fashion and trends Updated: Jun 28, 2011 14:15 IST
Shara Ashraf

Ever thought that those poker straight locks and painted talons that save you from your Miss Plain Jane moments, can also gnaw at your health? Recently, the US government declared that formaldehyde used in nail polishes and hair-straightening solutions is a carcinogen — a substance that can trigger cancer.

The Oregon Health and Science University’s Centre for Research on Occupational and Environment Toxicology (Oregon OSHA), US, has warned salon workers to use caution when using these products. City based doctors also confirm that excessive use of cheap nail paints and hair straighteners can expose you to cancer. On continuous usage one can suffer from nose/eye irritation, breathing disorders, blindness (on contact with the eye) or nose and lung cancer. Dr Sachin Maurya, dermatologist, Fortis Escorts, says, “Hair straightening treatments utilise formaldehyde, the basic molecule required for breaking the disulphide bonds in the hair which causes straightening of the hair.

Formaldehyde can cause cancer when inhaled or applied to the skin. Most stylists use masks to escape the its fumes, however, there is no way of preventing small amounts of formaldehyde from getting absorbed into the skin. “Till the time a suitable substitute for formaldehyde is found, it’s best to opt for chemical-free methods such as a manual blowout with a blow dryer or a hair ironing machine, to avoid harmful effects of the chemicals,” says Dr Maurya.

Beauty experts also advise to stay away from cheap hair straighteners and nail paints. “The best policy is to stay away from cheap products. Opt for products with a good R&D base and those which mostly uses organic ingredients. Do not compromise when it comes to quality as the market is flooded with fakes,” says Dr Jamuna Pai, dermatologist.

measures that can save you n Use formaldehyde-free nail polishes, removers and straighteners. n Take Biotin capsules at least two weeks prior to hair straightening and continue for six weeks post-colouring. n Ensure that the straightener is applied at a place with proper ventilation so you don't inhale fumes. n Always use dermatologically approved and medicated shampoos and PH balanced conditioners. n Do not get your hair straightened more than twice a year. n Increase your intake of egg white, soya rich food and fish. n Before applying nail paint, apply a base coat.

Inputs from Dr Deepali Bhardawaj, dermatologist, Rockland Hospital, Dr Deepak Sharma, dermatologist, Fortis Escorts and beauty expert Aashmeen Munjal