This Women’s Day, fight against the cosmetics that are killing you. Go au naturel | health and fitness | Hindustan Times
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This Women’s Day, fight against the cosmetics that are killing you. Go au naturel

This International Women’s Day, break free from the pressures that make wearing makeup a compulsion, and take a step towards living healthier — sans chemicals, toxins and colourants.

health and fitness Updated: Apr 06, 2017 09:28 IST
Sneha Bengani
Sneha Bengani
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
International Women's Day,Women’s Day,Makeup Harmful
Vidya Balan posing without makeup for an exclusive HT Brunch photoshoot.(HT Photo)

Your quest for beauty could be killing you ….. slowly.

Did you know your lipstick contains heavy metals and chemicals that are also used to manufacture rubber and plastics? That personal care and beauty products that make you look pretty, are mostly carcinogenic? That there are no strict laws governing the quality and production standards of the cosmetics you use as a rule every day?

From the innocuous looking toothpaste that you go to the first thing in the morning to the eyeliner that you just cannot do without, you are exposing yourself to dangerous chemicals everyday with what you choose to use.

Below is a list of cosmetics and beauty products that you swear by, and how they could end up killing you. While most of the products that are popular are dangerous, we also list the not-so-popular but safe and natural alternatives. Because it’s about your health and ignorance is never an excuse.


Lipsticks are known to contain carcinogenic chemicals. Regular use can also damage nervous and hormonal systems. (Bibliophile./Facebook)

Major chemicals used: BHT-BHA (preservatives), methylparaben (anti-fungal agent), D&C Red 22 Aluminum Lake (colorant), tocopheryl acetate (used to manufacture rubber, plastics), carbon black (used as a pigment), talc, and heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, zinc, chromium and iron.

Health problems: Known human carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) are used in its making. Other chemicals can cause miscarriage, infertility, delayed puberty, hormonal imbalance, damage the endocrine and nervous systems, and trigger lifelong skin troubles such as burning, scaling, hives and blistering.


Major chemicals used: Phthalates (chemicals that can damage hormone-producing endocrine system), BHT-BHA (preservatives), benzophenone (UV light protector).

Health problems: These chemicals can cause cancer, infertility, premature delivery, endometriosis (a uterus condition causing severe pain in pelvic region), hormonal imbalance and endocrine disruption.


Regular exposure to carbon black (used in eyeliners and mascaras) can damage lungs, cause chronic inflammation and cancer. (Bibliophile./Facebook)

Major chemicals used: Quaternium-15 (releases the hazardous formaldehyde gas), BHT-BHA (preservatives), carbon black (used as a pigment), and heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, zinc, chromium and iron.

Health problems: These chemicals are known to cause cancer, skin allergies, irritation and hormonal imbalance.


Major chemicals used: Aluminum, parabens (used as preservative), triclosan (known pesticide, releases chloroform), propylene glycol, phthalates (chemicals that can damage hormone-producing endocrine system), talc.

Health problems: Breast and prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s, infertility, premature delivery, hormonal imbalance, clogged pores, can disrupt central nervous system, and damage heart and liver.


Anti-ageing creams are more harmful for you that you can imagine. (Campaign for Safe Cosmetics)

Major chemicals used: Lead, BHT-BHA (preservatives), octinoxate (UV filter), tocopheryl acetate (contains acetic acid which can cause serious skin and respiratory allergies), benzophenone (protects from UV light) and talc.

Health problems: Varied, ranging from cancer, miscarriage, infertility and delayed puberty to hormonal imbalance, endocrine disruption, thyroid, and skin allergies such as itching, scaling, burning, hives and blistering.

Nail paint

Major chemicals used: Toluene (solvent), phthalates (chemicals that can damage hormone-producing endocrine system), formaldehyde (used as a hardening agent), benzophenone (UV protector), hydroquinone (used for skin lightening), and heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, zinc, chromium and iron.

Health problems: Cancer, birth defects, neurological damage, infertility, premature delivery, endocrine disruption and respiratory tract irritation.


Eating healthy is as important as brushing teeth and flossing to maintain good oral health, say experts. (Shutterstock)

Major chemicals used: Triclosan (antibacterial chemical), sodium lauryl sulfate (a pesticide that helps foaming action), and heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, zinc, chromium and iron.

Health problems: Cancer (breast, ovarian, prostate and testicular), preterm and low birth weight babies, delayed puberty, miscarriage and infertility.

Talcum powder

Major chemicals used: Asbestos (carcinogenic mineral present in talc), quaternium-15 (releases formaldehyde gas) and titanium dioxide.

Health problems: Lung cancer, ovarian cancer, skin allergies and irritation.

What you can do

Buy shampoos and conditioners that do not have these chemicals listed. (Campaign for Safe Cosmetics)

* Though ingredient labels are mostly misleading and never disclose complete information, you’ve got to read them nevertheless. Look for expiry date and familiarise yourself with the toxic products you need to avoid in the cosmetics you use regularly.

* Beware of these chemicals: Formaldehyde, phenacetin, coal tar, asbestos, benzene, ethylene oxide, lead and arsenic. Do not buy products that have these listed.

* Avoid cosmetics that list ‘fragrance’ as one of the ingredients. Go for the ones that use plant oils and natural essences instead.

* Lead is a heavy metal that is most commonly used in all sorts of beauty products. It gets mixed in colour additives. Buy makeup from brands that produce in small batches. They are more likely to avoid contamination and adhere to quality standards. Or buy products that use natural pigments such as fruits.

* Do not use personal care products that contain talc on your pelvic region. It can cause testicular, ovarian cancer.

* Look for natural alternatives—products that use honey, tea tree oil, aspen bark extract, vitamin E, rosemary and grapefruit seed extract.

* Limit your use of chemical-laden products as much as you can. Do not fall for fancy packaging and advertisement.

* Be it for healthy skin, hair or teeth, there is always a homemade alternative. Embrace them.

The author tweets @sneha_bengani

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