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Skin Sin #3

Dangerous chemicals in your cosmetics can deprave your skin and even cause cancer!

Try as we might, we simply cannot avoid using makeup. A dash of face powder, a streak of lip-gloss and the perfect sweep of eyeliner are part of our daily morning wakeup routines, without which, we look and feel incomplete.

This dependency on makeup is perhaps the root of all problems: the idea is one cannot look good if they missed out on a certain cosmetic or ran out of it. People like 25-year-old aspiring fashion designer Ambreen Irfan actually skip going out if they don’t have their makeup with them. “I firmly believe that one should look impeccable from top to bottom when they step out of the house,” says Ambreen. “If I don’t have the right cosmetics to match my outfit or have run out of a key product like foundation, I prefer to remain at home.”

Sadly, Ambreen is just one of the many people who rely heavily on makeup. In this never-ending search for beauty, it isn’t uncommon for people to consume up to 10 different products daily, thereby exposing themselves to considerable amounts of germs and harmful toxins found therein. According to Saira Mahmood, a qualified beautician and owner of Saira’s School of Textile and Fashion Design, “All makeup comprises of artificial substances and a large number of chemicals which can harm the skin.” She cites skin irritation, allergies and even skin cancer as some of the possible outcomes of excessive makeup consumption. “The chemicals can seep into your bloodstream via skin absorption. From there, they can enter the bloodstream and ultimately, damage your internal organs over time. Dr Ijaz Ahmed, a practicing dermatologist at Ziauddin University Hospital in Karachi agrees with Saira, saying that, “Makeup is the root cause of acne or skin problems for over 30% of my female patients.”

Unfortunately, the harmful effects of makeup aren’t just limited to skin-related issues only, there is a variety of health problems that can occur as a result of excessive usage. Lipsticks, kajal sticks and eye-shadows, for example, are known to contain lead, a carcinogen and neurotoxin that can affect the nervous system adversely, leading to high blood-pressure, allergies, behavioral abnormalities and even decreased rates of fertility! Mercury and parabens — a chemical preservative used in many cosmetics — are some other hazardous substances common to beauty products. Although the purpose of parabens is to inhibit bacteria, the chemical itself is known to trigger the growth of cancer cells in the body.

Eye makeup in particular can be very detrimental if it has exceeded its expiration date or if the brushes used aren’t clean. “The area around the eyes is extremely sensitive and therefore, most vulnerable to poor makeup habits,” shares beautician Shahnaz Kamran. A normal mascara wand is the ideal breeding ground for pseudomonas aeruginosa, a harmful bacterium that causes corneal infections, redness and sties. Shahnaz, who runs her own mini salon from her home, advises against excessive eye makeup of any kind saying that, “You should avoid applying too much of anything to your eye area, be it makeup or lotions and creams.” Makeup enthusiasts who wear contact lenses should be extra careful as residue from mascaras, liners and eye shadows can settle on the lens and cause it to go bad, once again leading to infections or thinning of the lashes.

Ironically, Ambreen admits to suffering from severe headaches after wearing makeup for long periods of time. “At first, I assumed it was just a freak coincidence,” shares Ambreen. “But I soon realised my migraines came only when I applied mascara. After switching to another brand of eye makeup and still getting frequent aches, I gave up using mascara altogether!” Many women like Ambreen feel dizziness, exhaustion and even nausea after prolonged exposure to makeup. “That feeling of tiredness and dryness on your skin is a sign that it’s high time you removed the product off your face,” explains Shahnaz.

Of course, it is impossible to talk about the harmful effects of makeup without mentioning ageing — a phenomenon which prompts most makeup consumption. Using too much product on your skin will eventually further the wrinkles, lines and spots you are attempting to conceal, ultimately making you look older than you actually are!

While it is crucial that you curb your dependence on cosmetics, it is equally important that the products you purchase are of good quality. “Cosmetic giants boast of their risk-free products, free from this chemical and that mineral, but I doubt this is more than just a publicity gimmick to rake in more profits,” says Shahnaz. “Nonetheless, it is better to invest in branded products than cheaper, unbranded ones,” she adds. Saira suggests aqua-based makeup as a solution for cosmetic woes. “Aqua-based makeup is oil free so it doesn’t clog pores,” she explains. “Normal oil-based makeup prompts acne, allergies and blackheads, especially if applied to oily skin.” You can also research the products you wish to buy before heading to the cosmetic stores using Smartphone apps like GoodGuide and Pinterest. Dr Ijaz recommends avoiding heavy makeup for everyday outings.

However, regardless of how much or what kind of makeup you use, it is imperative that you indulge in a proper cleaning regime to remove all traces of chemicals from your skin. There are plenty of face washes, cleansers, toners and scrubs available in the market to choose from. Visiting the salon and treating yourself to a monthly facial or cleaning routine can also help keep your skin healthy, radiant and looking its very best.

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