How to buy the right cosmetics: Things you should look out for | health and fitness | Hindustan Times
Today in New Delhi, India
Jan 22, 2017-Sunday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

How to buy the right cosmetics: Things you should look out for

health and fitness Updated: Aug 11, 2015 21:28 IST
Deekshita Baruah
Deekshita Baruah
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story


Does your mother scoff every time you pull out your make-up kit? Her long lectures on the ill-effects of these products on your skin might irritate you to the core. But what she probably does not mention is how some of these chemical compounds found in cosmetics can also pose as a health hazard.

With most of you buying cosmetics over the counter without any proper guidance you might be inviting trouble for yourself. And if you want to dismiss our concern on the grounds that you use organic products, think twice! Most of these so-called-organic-cosmetics contain only about 70% organic ingredients while the rest 30% is pure chemical.

So, the next time you go shopping, look out for these compounds in your cosmetics, for the sake of your health.

Found in: Moisturisers, skin scrubs and deodorants.

Parabens are commonly used as preservatives by cosmetic industries.

Dr Madhuri Agarwal, dermatologist and cosmo physician, The Skin Clinic, Mumbai, says, "The compound's been found to interfere with hormonal functions where it mimics estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity and neurotoxicity."

You may ask how does this happen? When moisturisers come in contact with the skin, parabens get easily absorbed which in turn blends with the blood stream. At times it can also affect your digestive system.

Found in: Fairness creams and skin bleaching products.

Hydroquinone's an aromatic organic compound that is also a type of phenol.

Fairness creams can lead to skin cancer. (Shutterstock photo)

Dr Amit Luthra, dermatologist, ISHIRA Skin clinic, Delhi, says, "Hydroquinone can cause severe allergic reactions and over a period of time regular usage can lead to blue-grey discolouration of the skin which is not treatable."

In some people it can also lead to difficulty in breathing, tightness in the chest and swelling of the mouth or tongue.

However, in rare cases it can lead to skin cancer as the compound decreases the production of melanin pigments in the skin which in turn increases the exposure to UVA and UVB rays.

Hope this solves your problem of skin colour fixation!

Sodium laureth sulphate
Found in: Shampoos, bubble bath products, toothpastes and mouthwashes.

Don't be too happy the next time your shampoo works up into a nice thick lather. It could kill you!

Sodium laureth sulphate (SLS) most widely used as foaming and cleaning agents in cosmetics like your regular shampoo and bubble bath products can lead to multiple health problems.

Dr Agarwal says, "What people don't know is that this compound can harm your skin immune system and also lead to breathing difficulties. We have had a few patients who also suffered depression resulting from the compound's reaction with the body."

It's horrifying to know that SLS also found in toothpastes and mouthwashes is one of the ingredients in garage-floor cleaners. Now, how can that be safe?

Para-Phenylenediamine, mercury and lead
Found in: Hair dye, hair colours, lipsticks and mascaras.

It doesn't matter whether you purchase a hair dye from a local departmental store or an upscale salon; always check for the compound Para-Phenylenediamine (PPD). If the label lists it, we reckon you dump it. These days the compound is found in processed henna products too.

Lead found in lipsticks can result in cognitive disabilities. (Shutterstock photo)

Dr Swati Srivastava, dermatologist, Sketch Clinic, Mumbai, says, "A derivative of coal tar, which is also used to build roads, PPD is a highly dangerous compound found in hair dyes and hair colours. Prolonged use can cause brain damage."

In some cases it can also lead to increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of the lymph system) and dermatitis.

Srivastav adds, "Keep an eye out on lipsticks too. Some of these lipsticks contain lead which is a neurotoxin and can be dangerous even in small doses."

Lead in your system can cause cognitive disabilities, resulting in learning, language and behavioral problems.

We suggest you practice caution while buying mascara too. Used as a preservative in eye make-up, it can lead to kidney damage!

Dr Luthra says, "Although we don't practice it in India, it's always advisable to check with your dermatologist and do a patch test. Picking up cosmetics directly from the counter can be harmful. Just in case you have to do it, go for nickel and cobalt free products."

What else to look out for:
*Oxybenzone and Octinoxate found in sunscreens as UVB protecting agents can result in skin ageing.
*Fragrance in cosmetics can lead to migraines and asthmatic problems.
*Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) closely related to synthetic antioxidants are used as preservatives in lipsticks and moisturisers.