Cosmetics: A curse in disguise

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Cosmetics are intended to beautify human body by cleansing, promoting attractiveness, or reshapingappearance without affecting the bodys structure. These products are produced for the beauty purposes of hair, skin, nails, teeth and body. Cosmetics include: Creams, hair oils, Hair-dyes, Kajal, Lotions, Perfumes, Lipsticks, Talcum powders and Face powders. The use of cosmetics is very common in the whole world since from the early ages andbeauty consciousness of the people has increased the demand of beauty products in the market.It is a common quotation that “women inadvertently eat about 4 Ibs (pounds) of lipsticks in her lifetime”. A huge money is being spent yearly on the manufacture and import of these cosmetics. According to reports, it is estimated that in Pakistan domestic market for cosmetics and beauty-care products has beenexceeded about Rs150 billions and is being expanded at an average rate of 15pc annually. As the use of cosmetics is increasing day by day, the side effects of these are also coming forward to us. Users observe problems like skin irritation and skin allergy. Side effects of cosmetics are main cause of attention of researchers and clinicians to find out a probable reason behind these and they reach to a fact that these effects are caused due to use of chemicals like heavy metals and organic pollutants in these products.

A variety of heavy metals is used in cosmetics as ingredients (Hexavalent Chromium (Cr+6), Nickel, Mercury, cadmium, Lead etc.) and some of them are used as preservatives (Mercury). Heavy metals are naturally occurring. They are present in the environment and make their way in trace quantities into their raw materials. These substances are essential to make products that we consume and use in our daily life. Essential metals also become very toxic when they are present in higher concentration (Glanze et al, 1996). Sufficient amount of heavy metals present in cosmetics poses great health problems in humans. Cosmetics may enter in human body by two ways, directly ingested or absorbed by the pores of skin and become the part of blood. The most significant route of cosmetics is dermal exposure because most of the cosmetics are applied to the skin. Oral exposure can occur when cosmetics used in or around the mouth and also from hand to mouth contact (Sainio et al., 2002). When heavy metals come in contact with human body, they are absorbed in it and form complexes with protein compounds like thiol (-SH), amine (-NH2) and carboxylic acid (-COOH) resulting malfunctioning or even death of the cells and consequently use causes variety of diseases (Pachauri and Flora, 2010).

World health organization (WHO) reported that the mercury is commonly used in skin lightening creams and soaps in Asian and Central African countries has serious side effects and can be fatal. Mercury is a neurotoxin. Mercury has been used by different names such as “mercurous chloride”, calomel, mercuric, mercurio or mercury. The fairness cream contains mercury which reduces skin resistance to infections, can cause seizures, numbness anxiety, depression and even memory loss. Hexavalent Chromium (Cr+6) is present in mostly cosmetics which is highly corrosive and allergic to skin. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) enlisted that Cr+6 are carcinogenic compounds and can cause dermatitis, ulcerations and allergic skin reactions. Inhalation of Cr+6 compounds can cause asthmatic bronchitis, irritation in pharynx and larynx, bronchospasms and edema. Similarly Nickel can also cause adverse effects on human health. When Nickel comes in contact with skin, it causes allergic reactions and if consumed in high amount causes adverse effects on kidney, stomach and liver.

Similarly, a variety of organic compounds like AHA (alpha hydroxyl acid), Quarternium 15, Dioxin, Amines, Fragrance (Fragrance Oils), Parabens, Phthalates, 1,4-Dioxane, Petrochemicals, Nanoparticles, Grain Spirits are also used in cosmetics.

AHA (alpha hydroxyl acid) is popular in the anti-aging market, alpha-hydroxyl acids are used extensively in cosmetics dermatology. AHA is a known skin irritant. Some commonside effects are, redness, skin inflammation, burning sensation, secondary infections from broken skin, blistering, and rashes. This could increase your risk of skin cancer. Other side effect may be hyper-pigmentation. Quarternium 15 is an ammonium salt used as a preservative in cosmetics, it can Kill bacteria by releasing formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. It is a highly sensitizing chemical and is well-known as a strong allergen. Dyes or Colors are artificial dyes and colorants frequently produced by COAL TAR, many are documented as carcinogens and Dioxin has the same effects. Parabens are also used as preservatives in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Parabens cause impaired fertility or development of fetus, and increase risk for certain cancers such as breast cancer or other estrogen sensitive diseases.When tiny nano particles penetrate the skin, they may cause cell damage. Grain Spirit or ethanol is also used as ingredient for preservation in cosmetics. Ethanol itself is not classified as a carcinogen; however, the first metabolic product (the first thing your body breaks alcohol down into) is acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is more toxic than the ethanol itself, is mutagenic (causes genetic mutation), and carcinogenic (possible contributor to cancer). Other organic compounds have similarly effects on humans.

Removal of heavy metals and organic compounds from cosmetics products after manufacture is not possible, however, if careful selection of the raw material is made keeping in view the harmful effects of heavy metals, we can improve the quality of the products and save the beauty of the environment. Therefore, the government should make sure of implementation of rules and regulations for cosmetics making companies so that people may be able to purchase products of those which are registered. Products of non-registered companies should be completely banned. Cosmetics making companies should not use harmful chemicals so that hazardous effects of these on human life may be minimized. Women are advised to minimize the use of cosmetics especially lipstick and be careful while purchasing cosmetics of a company on the basis of its registration from government and chemicals used. In this way the ratio of cosmetics-borne diseases may be reduced.


Published in: Volume 07 Issue 06

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