Not every one of us is satisfied with the texture of our hair or the colour of our skin. Corporations capitalise on our insecurity and push their products on us. What else could explain the skyrocketing sales of fairness creams, hair dyes and slimming pills? But in our quest for the perfect looks, we may be unwittingly damaging our health. “In today’s day and age, beauty and perfection are being striven for like never before. Influenced by beauty influencers and photoshopped magazines, the trend is to be ‘flawless,’” says Dr. Kiran Godse, Consultant Dermatologist, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi – A Fortis Network Hospital. “Looks have been overemphasised and the demand for products to enhance these looks has increased over time.”
However, overusing and obsessing over these cosmetic products may be harmful to the skin, according to Dr. Godse. He lists down all the ways in which personal care products may harm us.
1 Skin lightening creams
Our obsession with fair skins can turn potentially fatal if we are not careful. Dr. Godse says that skin-lightening creams containing three ingredients – hydroquinone, retinoid and steroids – can cause dark patches on the skin. “Melasma is a common acquired pigmentary skin disorder, characterised by macular pigmentation of the of the face on the cheeks, upper lip and forehead. Prolonged use of these creams can cause skin thinning, bruising, white spots and hypersensitivity of the skin,” says the doctor.
2 Nylon brushes and Pumice Stone
Beauty magazines have created an unnatural fear of dead cells, which has popularised methods like mechanical exfoliation and dry brushing. Products like nylon body scrubbing brushes and pumice stones have been gaining popularity these days. “They often used by people to clean their body. Prolonged use of these can cause nylon brush dermatitis, which causes dark-coloured patches on the skin where they are rubbed,” says Dr. Godse.
Steroids figure commonly in skin-lightening creams and over-the-counter ointments. “Prolonged use of the potent steroids, primarily betamethasone, clobetasol and mometasone which are widely found in skin care creams, without supervision can cause skin thinning, bruising and pigmentation,” he adds. Dr. Godse also warns against using topical steroid creams without prescription since they can cause steroid rosacea (reddening of the nose, cheeks, forehead and chin) and acne.
4 Ring Worm Cream
Most over-the-counter acne medication and ringworm that you buy without prescription contains salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid. But incorrect use of this potent chemical can cause irritation, ulcers and dark patches on the body, according to Dr. Godse.
5 Nail Polish
Are you constantly falling sick? It could be your nail polish. Nail polishes contain a deadly chemical known as formaldehyde. It is a preservative, which is commonly used to embalm dead bodies. “Not many know that the chemical is a carcinogen. It can cause skin allergies and adversely affect the immune system,” adds Dr. Godse. Formaldehyde is also present in hair products and skin care products.
6 Cosmetics Containing Parabens
These days, we often find ‘Paraben Free’ labels on everything from shampoos to diaper rash creams. Ever wondered why? Most cosmetics contain an additive called parabens, which helps extend the shelf-life of these products by keeping bacteria and mould from growing on them. But parabens also have a dubious reputation as an endocrine disrupter. “Parabens mimic oestrogen in the body, interfering with reproductive functions of the body. There’s also an increased risk of breast cancer,” Dr. Godse says.
We often buy or discard a product based on how it smells. Many cosmetics have added fragrances to increase the appeal of these products. “But ‘fragrance’ is also a term used by many companies to hide its patented formula. It can be found in many beauty products like moisturisers. These chemicals can cause dermatitis, allergies, respiratory distress and can have a detrimental effect on the reproductive system,” says Dr. Godse.
8 Detergents and Surfactants
Most shampoos, soaps and toothpastes contain sodium lauryl sulphate known as SLS and sodium laureth sulphate known as SLES. “Both these chemicals are found extensively in 90 percent of personal care products. These irritate the skin, lungs and eyes. They are also carcinogenic, with a potential to damage the kidneys and lungs,” says the doctor.
Little did we know that the personal care products that we use without a thought can harm us so much. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. For all the readers who are concerned about what they put on their bodies, the skin expert has a few pieces of advice: “It is important that one must not use any product on the face unless a dermatologist recommends it. Make sure that products are bought from good, established stores. Do not fall into websites claiming cure of a specific condition or fairness; these may cause long-term harm. It is best to try a product on the inner arm for two days, before applying on to the face. In case of an allergy that persists for over 24hrs with itching and discomfort, visit a skin specialist and do not self-treat.”