Dhaka, If you don’t read the labels carefully, the cosmetic products you buy to look better may end up having the opposite effect Rashi Kapoor, a 25-year-old HR professional in Mumbai, couldn’t wait to get married to her boyfriend of three years.
A week before the wedding, she went in for a beauty treatment at the nearby parlour, where she was sold an unlabelled face cream. She applied it that night and woke up the next day, mortified. “I had blisters all over my face. I couldn’t stop crying and even thought of cancelling the wedding,” remembers Kapoor.The next day, Kapoor and her mother went to a skin clinic, where the doctors managed to treat 60 per cent of her blisters before the big day.
In such cases, says Dr Apratim Goel, Cosmetic Dermatologist and Laser Surgeon, the unlabelled face cream could be the culprit. “Never buy such products,” she cautions.
Unfortunately, sometimes, labels don’t help much either. Experts point out that products purchased over the counter could contain chemicals and ingredients that can later prove to be skin irritants. Worryingly enough, such products include regular grooming products such as shampoos, soaps, perfumes, hair oils and so on. “Some of them include preservatives and parabens (to extend it’s shelf life), which could cause an allergic reaction,” explains Dr Soma Sarkar, cosmetic dermatologist.
So what are the most harmful ingredients you should keep an eye out for on your next shopping expedition? Skin care experts and dermatologists list out a few of them:
If you find the word ‘fragrance’ in the ingredients listed out at the back of the product you are about to purchase, beware, for the product could contain alcohol. “For a good fragrance, alcohol is added to products such as shampoos, creams, lotions and toners. This can cause skin dryness and irritation as well,” explains Dr Sarkar. “Always opt for an alcohol free product. If that’s not available, ensure that the product contains permissible levels of alcohol,” she adds. Dr Mohan Thomas, Senior Cosmetic Surgeon, Breach Candy Hospital and Cosmetic Surgery Institute, says, “Companies are smart and won’t use the word `alcohol’ in their list of ingredients. Instead, they use words like ‘glycol’. Deodorants have alcohol and can cause nasty rashes. Even face wash has ‘fragrance’, which could lead to contact dermatitis.”
Besides products such as bindis and sindoors, mascaras and eye liners too could have the toxic chemical, warn experts. “Mercury can irritate the eye and the eyelash can even grow thinner,” explains Dr Sarkar. Eyeliners and mascara can contain parabens like ethyl paraben and butylparaben as well. “They can irritate the eyes and also cause redness,” says Dr Sarkar, adding that people should look out for words such as ‘paraben-free’ and `hypoallergenic’ on the box of the product before buying it.
Hair dyes contain the chemical which can have an adverse effect on your skin and scalp. It also aggravates skin pigmentation. Dermatologist Dr Sushil Tahiliani explains they can also cause skin redness. In extreme, albeit rare, cases, they can cause a drop in blood pressure and cause the user to collapse, also known as an anaphylactic reaction. “Anaphylaxis can also come from the latex gloves that the person wears while applying hair dye,” he adds. Other chemicals in hair dyes include peroxide and paraphenylenediamine, which can be toxic to the scalp and skin. Also, always buy sulphate-free shampoos, adds Dr Sarkar.
Experts warn that fairness and skin lightening creams often contain hydroquinone, which is a bleaching agent that causes skin allergies and reactions. “The chemical is added to the cream to give instant results in a week,” adds Dr Sarkar. Hydroquinone, adds Dr Tahiliani, is supposed to be used only in those drugs that are prescribed by doctors for hyperpigmentation disorders. “If used excessively, this can lead to white spots, where the skin loses colour completely and can cause a condition called ochronosis, where the skin begins to develop dark patches,” he explains.
Dr Goel warns that many fairness creams have steroids as well. “Their side effects include acne-like eruptions, pustules, infections and boils. They also cause dry and itchy red skin, also called dermatitis. It can also cause excessive facial hair, pigmentation and white patches on the skin,” she says.
THE RISK IN TALCUM POWDER
Dr Tahiliani explains that talc, when inhaled, could cause respiratory issues especially in babies. “A stock ingredient in talcum pow der is magnesium silicate, which is added to give that feeling of smoothness. We use the powder to reduce sweating and so on, but once the powder gets absorbed, the coarse particles of the powder can irritate the skin,” he says.
THREE TIPS FOR THE DESIRED COSMETIC EFFECT
Before purchasing a product, apply it on your forearm and check for reactions overnight. If it does not set off an allergic reaction, it could be safe for use » As Indian skin tends to be oily, opt for face creams and sunscreen lotions that are non-oily. Look for ingredients like titanium dioxide and micronized zinc oxide which protects the body and face from UVA and UVB rays.» Don’t waste your money on expensive cosmetic products -they need not necessarily be effective. “Sunscreen lotions with SPF 30 should suffice. Lotions with SPF 90, for instance, may not do anything more in terms of sun protection, and cost you more,” says Dr Thomas.» As perfumes and deodorants contain fragrance and alcohol, do not jet spray if you have asthma or other respiratory issues. Instead, dab mild cologne on your fingers and apply it to your body.
–THE TIMES OF INDIA