Harmful Effects of Beauty Products

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Pretty Poison or Harmless Cosmetic? When you cover your blemishes, give yourself a sunless tan, or straighten your hair, chances are you use a product with a long list of ingredients. But are those ingredients safe? Headlines proclaiming the dangers of beauty products are often based on hype, so we offer some alternatives for those who want to reduce their use of chemicals.

Concern: Keratin Straighteners

Salon-based keratin hair treatments can deliver silky, smooth locks with no frizz. These treatments are often marketed as formaldehyde-free, but Oregon’s OSHA found high concentrations of the chemical in more than half of the samples. Long-term exposure to formaldehyde can cause cancer. Getting your hair straightened or “smoothed” once every few months will not put you over OSHA’s exposure limits. But there could be a real risk to your stylist.

Concern: Permanent Hair Dye

Research connecting hair dye to cancer has had conflicting results. Some studies suggest that women are slightly more likely to get leukemia or lymphoma if they use permanent hair dyes, particularly darker colors. But other studies have found there is no increased risk. Most research looking at hair dye and breast cancer has found no link. There is also no evidence suggesting hair dye poses a threat during pregnancy, although some health care providers recommend waiting until the second trimester to be extra cautious.


Option: Conditioner and Flat Iron

Conditioner can help you fight frizz by neutralizing the impact of static electricity. And while the results will only last until your next shampoo, a flat iron can get the kinks out of most naturally curly hair. Using a blow dryer is less effective than a flat iron for smoothing hair, but your stylist might show you a few good techniques, combined with safe hair products, to tame a frizzy look.

Option: Plant-Based Hair Dyes

Plant-based hair dyes, including henna and vegetable dyes, can change hair color without harsh chemicals. But there are some drawbacks. Most won’t result in a dramatic color change, and the results tend to fade sooner than with permanent dyes. A second option is to get highlights at a salon. A special cap or foil hair wrappers prevent the dye on your tresses from touching your scalp, so the chemicals aren’t absorbed by your skin.


Concern: Crazy Contacts

Colored or patterned lenses that don’t correct your vision can help you change your look. But avoid any lenses that are sold without a prescription, often available at salons, costume shops, or online. Contact lenses require proper fitting, cleaning, and care, even for a short wearing. If you don’t care for them properly, you run the risk of eye injuries or infections that can lead to vision loss.

Option: Eyelash Extensions

False eyelashes or eyelash extensions can give you that long-lashed look without a prescription drug. But that doesn’t mean they’re risk-free. The adhesives can irritate the eyelids or cause an allergic reaction. And beware of permanent eyelash tints that promise thicker-looking lashes. They have been linked to serious injury, including blindness. No permanent dyes are FDA-approved for use on the lashes.

Option: Rx Colored Lenses

If you feel Mother Nature gave you the wrong eye color, ask a licensed eye care professional about colored contact lenses. Even if you have a sharp vision, you’ll still need an eye exam. The doctor can write a prescription for you and show you how to take care of the lenses properly. Buy lenses from a prescription-only source. Follow the doctor’s directions to avoid injuring your eyes.


Concern: Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone is a skin lightener that is available by prescription or in a less potent strength over the counter. Dermatologists often recommend it for reducing age spots or dark patches known as melasma. Overuse of hydroquinone can cause skin discoloration. Animal studies have also linked the chemical to cancer, though the risk to humans is unclear. Scientists are currently studying hydroquinone’s safety.

Concern: Prescription Eyelash Serum

Latisse is a prescription drug that can temporarily give you long, flirty eyelashes. You daub the serum onto your upper lash line every day and wait about four months for results. You may love the lashes, but it’s important to note a small risk of side effects, some permanent. The drug may darken the skin around your eyes or turn the colored part of your eyes (the irises) brown.

Option: Laser Skin Resurfacing: Laser skin resurfacing uses a special type of laser to remove the top layer of skin. The procedure, which is done by a dermatologist, can minimize age spots and even out skin color without the long-term use of a chemical lightener. Drawbacks include the expense, pain, the downtime while your skin is healing, and a small risk of scarring or discoloration 🙂 🙂

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