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Cosmetics that make up trouble

As a teenager Deepa Balendran, 32, loved applying lipsticks and had an enviable collection of shades. Little did she know what harm those bright colours were doing to her lips. “I noticed my lips were turning darker. I started eating healthy but it did not help,” she said.

health and fitness Updated: Jan 27, 2014 02:10 IST
Rhythma Kaul

As a teenager Deepa Balendran, 32, loved applying lipsticks and had an enviable collection of shades. Little did she know what harm those bright colours were doing to her lips. “I noticed my lips were turning darker. I started eating healthy but it did not help,” she said.

By the time she was in her mid-twenties, her lips had turned nearly a shade darker, which is when Balendran went to a skin specialist. “I was surprised when she told me it could be because of the lipstick and asked me to stop using them immediately. It took some time but my lip colour improved,” said Balendran.

Delhi-based dermatologist Dr Deepali Bhardwaj says change in skin colour is a warning that the cosmetic product is not of good quality. “Lip discolouration or skin pigmentation is an obvious indication of use of harmful chemicals in cosmetics, especially dark shades of lipsticks or skin lightening creams,” she said.

There are many girls who love to apply make-up and start fairly young. “My daughter first applied make-up at 16. Since then she hasn’t stepped out without make-up,” said Akanksha Nandi, a public relations executive.

Young girls with problematic skin make for a good number of patients visiting skin specialists.

“Of my patients, 15% comprise young girls who suffer from skin damage due to random cosmetic use, especially fairness creams that use steroids,” said Dr Nitin Walia, senior dermatologist, Max Healthcare.

A recent study by The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), on presence of heavy metals, busted the most commonly believed myth of expensive products being safe. The presence of mercury, chromium, nickel having been detected in samples of fairness creams and lipsticks of popular Indian and foreign brands opened a debate on how early should girls be allowed to apply make-up. “The earlier one starts, longer is the period and degree of exposure that can eventually lead to various health conditions, often some serious ones like kidney and brain damage,” Dr Walia added.

India’s obsession with fair complexion means the most sold cosmetic item happens to be skin-lightening products. “Prolonged use of skin bleaching creams can make skin thinner and sensitive and also leads to pigmentation,” Dr Deepali added.

As part of their research, a US-based website — www.ewg.org — quoted FDA figure that claimed nearly one in five cosmetic products contains a substance that generates formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. The website claimed that the product label won’t tell if formaldehyde is present, even though the manufacturer has made sure a small amount of it is present in the jar or bottle to prolong shelf life.

The manufactures, however, say their products are completely safety. “Like all Hindustan Unilever cosmetic products, all Pond’s products are safe… All our products are approved by the FDA and they comply fully to the guidelines in India and the US FDA guidelines…” HUL spokesperson said.

Herbal product manufactures also vouch for its quality. “Natural ingredients have many beneficial properties essential for skin and hair health,” said beauty expert Shahnaz Husain.

Quiz: Are you allergic to cosmetics?