The Gloss Of Poison


When it comes to beauty products, the effects of the ingredients they contain can be more than just skin deep. From lipsticks and lotions to soaps and shampoos, the cosmetics industry uses thousands of synthetic chemicals in its personal care products.

While a consumer is fairly aware of the benefits of a product being advertised, the knowledge about its ingredients and their effects are hardly known. For instance, parabens are the most widely used preservatives in personal care products. A Danish study based on an experiment done on young men shows that parabens could be detected in their blood and urine a few hours after paraben-containing lotions were applied to their skin. The study concluded that, “since the chemicals could be absorbed, metabolized and excreted, they could potentially contribute to adverse health effects.”


According to a research, an average person uses and sprays about ten different skin care products on his or her body every day and since the skin acts more like a sponge than a barrier, a human body ends up absorbing more than 100 chemicals in a day.

Let’s look at the nail beauty industry. Many women would not believe that nail polish can be a source of cancer! Women and their fascination with different nail colours is known to all but what is not known are the harmful chemicals used in nail polish to make it look more glossy and long-lasting.

A recent media report suggests that nail salon workers in New York have developed illnesses that, scientists and health advocates say, are caused by the chemicals with which they work. With nearly 17000 nail salons, US employs a huge number of manicurists. Thousands of them are prone to serious health risks caused by over-exposure to chemicals like dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde that are used in nail products and have been linked to miscarriages, fetal defects and leukemia. Manicurists, who spend a lot of time in salons are exposed to the chemicals for a longer duration as compared to their customers.

Dr. Charles Hwu, in Flushing, Queens (USA), has noticed a particular set of symptoms among New York’s nail salon workers. Most of them suffered with breathing problems, some symptoms similar to an allergy and also asthma symptoms. In some cases, constant files, solvents and emollients have damaged their skin to the extent that their fingerprints have become non-existent. They cannot touch hot or cold dishes without searing pain. Besides, there are also some silent symptoms which the workers usually ignore— the nose that constantly bleeds, the throat that has ached every day since the manicurist started working.

Though, the authorities have made new rules for the salon to protect manicurists from the potentially dangerous chemicals found in nail products but they seem to be insufficient to deal with the crisis.

The case of nail salon workers in New York is just one of the many examples where one gets to see the ugly side of the beauty industry. Though it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about the products available in the market, partly because the research is so limited. But, it would be unwise to ignore these warnings and choose poison in place of food for skin.


Remember: Nail polish remover can contain: Acetone, Acetonitrile, Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate and Isobutyl Acetate.

This can cause: Headaches, dizziness, irritated eyes-skin-nose-throat, weakness, sleepiness, exhaustion, difficulty in breathing, nausea, vomiting.

Nail polish can contain: Formaldehyde, Toluene or Dibutyl Phthalate.

This can cause: Headaches, difficult breathing, asthma-like attacks, coughing, wheezing, numbness, dry and cracked skin, irritated eyes-skin-nose-mouth-throat-lungs, nausea, damage to liver and kidneys, cancer, harm to fetuses, spontaneous abortion.

Acrylic nail products can contain: Methacrylates.

This can cause: Skin burns, irritated eyes-skin-nose-mouth-throat, asthma, difficulty in concentration, harm to fetuses.

Shalini Verma

Shalini Verma

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