It's the ultimate irony: The fairness creams and bleaches you use to lighten your skin, make it softer or keep wrinkles away could be doing you serious harm. And not just to your skin. In addition to causing discolouration, rashes and scarring, some of the chemicals and steroids in these products can damage the kidneys, affect the lungs and heart, and lower your resistance to infection.
.A study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in 2014 found toxic heavy metals present in Indian and international brands of beauty products, including some herbal product lines.
.73 cosmetic products were tested, across 4 categories - fairness creams, anti-ageing creams, lip balms and lipsticks
.Highly toxic mercury was found in 14 of 32 fairness creams tested (26 aimed at women; 6 aimed at men)
.Under the Drugs and Cosmetics Acts and Rules of India, mercury is banned for use in cosmetics. The neurotoxin can cause skin discolouration, rashes and scarring and reduce resistance to infections; prolonged exposure can cause damage to kidneys.
.Carcinogens chromium and nickel were found in 15 and 13 of the 30 lipsticks tested, respectively
.While chromium is prohibited for use in cosmetics in the US, EU and India, with certain exceptions, some nickel compounds find mention on prohibitory lists in India, the EU and the US. This is because chromium is one of the most common cancer-causing heavy metals known. Nickel, meanwhile, can also cause skin rashes, aggravate asthma and bronchitis, respiratory failure, birth defects, and heart disorders.
|What to watch out for|
This week, the Maharashtra division of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled two fairness products off the market for being steroid-heavy. A drive has been launched to test other such products. Here's a general primer on what you can expect to find in your beauty products
Glycolic acid, retinol and beta hydroxy acid: Used as skin-lightening agents, make the skin vulnerable to UV damage and cause premature wrinkling and aging.
Tretinoin: which is used to even out skin tone, can cause irritation, redness and thinning of skin, making it dry.
Silicon: used to give creams a smooth texture, is known to cause skin allergies.
Droquinone: considered a good bleaching agent, can cause skin to grey over time.
Hydroquinone: considered a good bleaching agent, can cause skin to grey over time.
Sources: Dermatologists Dr Sirisha Singh and Dr Apratim Goel