How safe are your cosmetics?

Most beauty products in India are tainted with toxic heavy metals, shows a study by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment

Pallavi Saxena, 21, is an aspiring model in Delhi who must look fair and glamorous all the time. Every day, in the morning and evening, she gently massages a fairness cream to enhance her complexion. She never steps out of the house without makeup. “I always carry a lipstick in my purse for reapplying in between my shows, meetings and dinners,” Pallavi says. Linda Pannei also swears by cosmetics. She works at a showroom of leading cosmetic brand, ColorBar, in Delhi. To make sure that the lip colour does not fade, she applies lipstick three to four times during the working hours. “It helps convince customers about the company’s latest products, while making me feel beautiful and confident,” says Linda. Both Pallavi and Linda use branded products that come with high price tags. “Branded cosmetics are safe,” says Linda who spends about Rs 5,000 a month on the products. So feel millions of people, both men and women, who are increasingly relying on cosmetics to look their best.

The cosmetic industry is one of the fastest growing in India. In 2011, the industry registered impressive sales worth Rs 26,410 crore, according to the latest study by RNCOS, a business consultancy service in the US. With rising purchasing power and growing fashion consciousness, RNCOS estimates that the industry would expand at about 17 per cent a year between 2013 and 2015. Cosmetic giants are leaving no stone unturned to cash in on this opportunity and are roping in Bollywood superstars as advocates of their products. In one of the advertisements of Emami’s Fair and Handsome, Shah Rukh Khan throws the skin whitening cream towards a young man to use and become fairer. The implicit message is: whiter the skin, the more attractive and successful one is. While no one can say for sure that using cosmetics makes one look beautiful, what is confirmed is that they have adverse health effects.