Ross Chainey, Health & Wellbeing Editor
Some women’s handbags are literally overflowing with the stuff, but research suggests that applying make-up on a daily basis could actually be bad for your health.
Make-up is supposed to improve a person’s looks, but research now suggests that women who use make-up on a daily basis are flooding their bodies with as much as 5lb of chemicals a year. A study has shown that some women use more than 20 different beauty products a day while nine out of 10 apply make-up which is out of date.
This reliance of this ‘cocktail’ of cosmetics to enhance beauty means that 4lb 6oz of potentially dangerous chemicals is absorbed into the body through the skin. Some health experts have gone as far as linking some of the compounds used to make cosmetics and toiletries with side-effects such as skin problems, premature ageing and even cancer. Eye specialists have also linked make-up with eye infections and other conditions.
Richard Bence, a biochemist who has been researching the popular make-up products, says: “We really need to start questioning the products we are putting on our skin and not just assume that the chemicals in them are safe. We have no idea what these chemicals do when they are mixed together, the effect could be much greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Bence believes that people should use more organic rather than conventional cosmetics. He says: “If lipstick gets into your mouth it is broken down by the enzymes in saliva and in the stomach. But chemicals get straight into your bloodstream, there is no protection.”
The Royal College of Optometrists also warn against the dangers of using make-up. A survey carried out by the College found that many cases of sore, itchy and watery eyes could have been caused by make-up that past its use-by-date. The researchers revealed that one in four women put their health and looks in danger this way.
Despite spending a lot of money of beauty products, it seems that many women give little thought to the hygiene issues associated with the cosmetics they use. For example, 92% of women surveyed said that they keep their mascara for longer than six months, and more than two thirds said they used eye make-up that is more than two years old. Many women also share mascara, which can easily cause an eye infection to spread.
Dr Susan Blakeney, a spokeswoman for the College of Optometrists, says: “Mascara can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so it’s not surprising that we’ve found that nearly half of women suffer from itchy, watery and red eyes when they’re holding onto their make-up for so long and sharing it among friends.”
A separate study, carried out by the British Skin Foundation, found that the average woman applies 175 different chemicals to their skin on a daily basis. Many of these chemicals have been associated with skin problems, hormonal conditions and cancer.
Professor David Gawkrodger, a consultant dermatologist and spokesman for the British Skin Foundation, said: “Some of the chemicals in everyday toiletries may trigger irritant reactions of allergy. Reactions are particularly seen in patients with atopic eczema and those with sensitive skin.”
The campaign group, Chemical Safe Skincare, reports that 60% of skincare ingredients end up being absorbed into the body. The group is now demanding that the manufacturers of cosmetics should improve the labeling of products to include more information on their ingredients and the possible side-effects.
Much of the controversy surrounding the dangers of make-up involves chemicals such as parabens, which are used in soap, shampoo and deodorant. Meanwhile, sodium lauryl sulphate is a compound which produces the lather in soaps, shampoo, shaving foam and toothpaste and has been linked with skin irritation.
A spokeswoman for Chemical Safe Skincare has said: “Media reports about the possible dangers of certain chemicals such as parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate, phthalates and formaldehyde has made consumers more aware of what they are buying and potentially more demanding of chemical safe alternatives.”
The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association, however, maintain that beauty products are not dangerous. A spokesman told The Daily Telegraph: “The cocktail effect is an urban myth. We do know how different chemicals react individually and can predict how they interact with each other and this is taken into account when the safety of products is assessed.”
By Ross Chainey, Health & Wellbeing Editor
Published June 23 2007