What are Cosmetics: Friend or Enemy?


In present days, there is no man or woman who does not like use cosmetics. Cosmetic products are now widely used all over the world and the importance of using cosmetics is increasing day by day. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cosmetics can be defined as “Articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.” Cosmetic products may include lipsticks, skin moisturizers, perfumes, facial makeup, shampoos etc. Soaps are not included in cosmetics. We are using cosmetics for our fairness or beauty. But most of the chemicals used in cosmetics are not safe for us. These chemicals can cause serious problems, even can result in cancer. One of the ingredients used in lipsticks is ‘Lead’ which is highly toxic. There are some fragrances which have the tendency to accumulate in the body. These are very harmful. Some ingredients used in cosmetics are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs). These chemicals can mimic oestrogens and increase the risk of breast cancer. There are also some chemicals which can interfere with the oestrogen levels and can increase the risk of breast cancer. Chemicals can enter through dermal absorption and also through inhalation such as from perfumes and hairsprays. Chemicals which can increase the risk of breast cancer are- Parabens (used as preservatives), Diethyl Phthalate (used as solvents for fragrance, alcohol denaturant), Triclosans (used as preservative in antibacterial soaps, deodorants and toothpaste), Synthetic Musks (used as fragrance in aftershave, perfumes and cosmetics), Aluminium Chloride and Aluminium Chlorohydrate (used in antiperspirants, deodorants, toothpaste, lipstick). Among these chemicals, Diethyl Phthalate can cause adverse male reproductive development and Triclosans has no proven medical benefit.
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen but it is still using as nail hardener and in soaps. In makeup and creams, DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea, Imidazolidinyl urea and Quaternium-15 are used as Formaldehyde releasing chemicals. These are also carcinogenic and are linked to breast cancer. UV filters used in sunscreen products such as Benzophenones,Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate and Homosalate are oestrogenic, can bioaccumulate and have been detected in breast milk. These chemicals can also increase the dermal absorption of other chemicals. Octamethylcyclotetraciloxane which is used in sun lotions and creams is a weak oestrogen mimic, highly toxic and can cause breast cancer. Other carcinogenic agents are- Hydroquinone (used in hair dyes and nail polish), Toluene (used in nail polish, a neurodevelopmental toxin), Hydroxubutylated Toluene (used in lipsticks and moisturizers). Sodium Laureth sulphate (used as foaming agent) contains ethylene oxide which is a carcinogen. Phthalates used in deodorants can cause asthma and infertility. These harmful agents are also used in baby products so the infants are also affected by these carcinogens from the beginning of their lives. P-phenylenediamine, used in hair dyes, has potential to cause cancer and can contaminate with heavy metals toxic to the brain. Petrolatum is used in hair products for shine and as moisture barrier in lipsticks, lip balm and moisturizers. These Petrolatum products may be contaminated with some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and can cause cancer. Siloxanes, Dibutyl Phthalates and Parabens used in various cosmetics are reported to cause reproductive toxicity in both male and female. Some of the chemicals used in sunscreens may also protect us from cancer such as Oxybenzone.
Hair and beauty salon workers are at higher risk of these chemicals as they use these on daily basis. A Literature review on the health of hair and beauty salon workers by Women’s Voice for the earth concluded that salon workersare more likely to suffer from dermatitis, asthma, lupus cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, miscarriage and birth defects in their children.
But if these chemicals are used in limited concentrations, they cannot produce any adverse effect in body. Actually all chemicals are poisons depending on their dose. Only dose can differentiate a poison and a drug. This is also applicable for making cosmetics. That’s why, while adding these chemicals in cosmetics, guidelines should be followed in order to avoid unwanted adverse effects. The consumers should also be aware of the use of cosmetics and parents should prevent the unnecessary usages of cosmetics for their children.

Sanjida Akter Suchana is an undergrad student of Department of Pharmacy, East West University. She has interest in wet lab based research in pharmaceutical science. She can be reached at sanjida.suchana@yahoo.com

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  1. It’s a real plausere to find someone who can think like that

  2. With the bases loaded you struck us out with that ansrwe!

  3. Yes it is very useful advice to the human being specially women. We should also against all the beauty perlour in front of our house.

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