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    Slideshow: The Truth About Beauty Product Dangers

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    woman wearing cucumber mask

    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 WebMD takes a look at the Read More

    woman at hair salon

    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 samples. Long-term exposure to formaldehyde can cause Read More

    flat iron straightening hair

    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 Read More

    woman dyeing hair

    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 Read More

    henna powder

    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 Read More

    woman wearing venetian mask

    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 Read More

    woman applying contact lense

    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 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 Read More

    woman using eye dropper

    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 Read More

    false eyelash

    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 Read More

    woman applying face cream

    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 Read More

    Laser skin resurfacing

    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 Read More

    woman in tanning bed

    Concern: Tanning Beds

    No matter what you've heard about the safety of tanning salons, here's what the research says: frequent use of tanning beds raises your risk of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. In addition, tanning beds mainly emit UVA rays, which contribute to premature aging – wrinkles Read More

    woman using bronze cream

    Option: Sunless Tanning Products

    It's easy to fake a tan. Sunless tanning lotions typically contain DHA, a color additive that reacts with amino acids in the skin's surface to create a temporary "tan." DHA is FDA-approved for external application, but not for use in commercial spray tanning booths. These booths may Read More

    woman having a manicure

    Concern: Nail Salon Hazards

    Manicure products contain a wide range of chemicals, including formaldehyde, phthalates, acetone, or toluene. Their fumes may irritate the skin, eyes, nose, and respiratory tract. These reactions are more common in salon workers than in clients. Manicures and pedicures can also Read More

    clipping fingernail

    Option: Minimize Risks

    Before having a manicure or pedicure, inspect the salon's cleanliness. Leave if you doubt the quality of the salon's sanitation or disinfection practices. Don't shave your legs before a pedicure, and avoid the nail salon if your skin is cut, nicked, or broken. If you're a salon worker, Read More

    woman shampooing hair

    Concern: Phthalates

    Phthalates are chemicals used to make products more pliable. They're found in toys, food packaging, and some beauty products, including nail polish, shampoo, and soap. Two studies suggest phthalate exposure during pregnancy may lead to abnormal development in male infants, Read More

    woman shopping for hair dye

    Option: Phthalate-Free Products

    If you're concerned about phthalates, look for phthalate-free beauty products. You can check the ingredients for the term phthalate (dibutylphthalate, dimethylphthalate, diethylphthalate, etc.), butyl ester, or plasticizer. It's important to note that phthalates are also Read More

    woman applying hand creme

    Concern: Parabens

    Parabens are the most common preservative found in cosmetics, including makeup, moisturizers, and hair care products. One study found parabens in breast tumors, but did not indicate that parabens actually caused the cancer. Other researchers have concluded it is "implausible" Read More

    Couple looking at hair product

    Option: Paraben-Free Cosmetics

    If you're concerned about parabens, you can find paraben-free beauty products. Cosmetics tend to spoil without preservatives, but parabens aren't the only option. Some products use vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or vitamin E (tocopheryl acetate) as Read More


    Does Makeup Expire?

    If you're hanging onto your glittery disco-era eye shadow, toss it now. Preservatives in the makeup may break down over time, allowing bacteria to grow. Experts offer the following "use by" guidelines:

    • Foundation - one year
    • Blush/powder/shadow - two years
    • Lipstick - one year
    • Mascara - 3-4 months

    Throw out eye makeup immediately if you have an eye infection.

    cosmetic powder

    Is Mineral Makeup Better?

    Mineral makeup contains fewer irritating fillers and preservatives than regular cosmetics. But it can still contain allergens, so people with sensitive skin should look for products with as few ingredients as possible. Although mineral makeup often has built-in sunscreen, like Read More

    woman applying sun block

    Sunscreen Safety

    The ingredients in sunscreen have been used for many decades and are considered safe. The real danger is choosing a sunscreen that is too weak. To protect against both UVA and UVB rays, choose a product labeled "broad spectrum" and choose SPF 30 or higher to reduce the risk of skin cancer Read More

    Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on May 23, 2016


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