Dangerous mercury levels in skincare products causes multiple health problems

Let’s be honest, how many of us know what goes inside our skincare and beauty products? Expect a few woke consumers who are flagbearers of green and clean beauty, all of us give little to no attention to the long list of ingredients given on the back of the products. With hundreds of new and viral trends alluring us to stack more bottles on our shelves, it’s hard to keep a track of what we are slathering on our faces every day. But with a little research, awareness and diligence, you can enter the clean beauty cult and only buy health and skin-friendly products for your skin.

Several brands, till date, use ingredients like parabens, formaldehyde, and carbon black, which have been linked to some pretty serious health concerns such as cancer, hormonal imbalances, and respiratory issues, just to name a few. Mercury is one such harmful ingredient widely used in skin-lightening and anti-ageing products. 

Who is at risk?

If you use skin-lightening creams, there’s a high chance of you getting exposed to this highly-toxic substance. In cosmetics, high mercury levels are most usually found in whitening and anti-ageing products because it helps fade dark spots, blemishes, wrinkles and fine lines. But, it has some harmful side effects too.

According to experts, mercury is an effective ingredient for skin lightening and it gives rapid results too, however, the price we pay through our health outweighs the benefits. It’s a poison that can damage skin and even organs, according to dermatologists.

The global skin-lightening products market size was estimated at $9.96 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $10.57 billion in 2022. The numbers simply show how big the market is and it is growing rapidly due to its popularity among women who wish to get a lighter skin tone. The global anti-ageing products market size is almost four times the size of skin-lightening products. But, do women even know that many of these products are simply overdoses of mercury in the form of mercury salts? 

In fact, many are not even aware of the fact that high levels of mercury found in some skincare products can put their health at risk.

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What are the health risks?

Several studies have stated in the past that exposure to mercury can have serious health consequences. And, the danger isn’t just limited to people using mercury-containing products but also to their families. If you use these products, there’s a high chance that your family might be breathing mercury vapours or might have been exposed by using the same washcloths and towels contaminated with mercury. If it gets absorbed into the skin, it can even cause mercury poisoning with toxicity to the kidneys and nervous system.

Pregnant women, nursing babies and young children are most vulnerable to mercury toxicity. Since mercury gets passed into breast milk, newborns who nurse are very vulnerable. According to World Health Organization (WHO), the primary adverse effect of mercury in skincare products is kidney damage. And, it can even cause anxiety, depression, and even psychosis. Long-term use of cosmetics that contain mercury can cause damage to the eyes, lungs, digestive, nervous and immune systems.

Due to the health hazards, several countries have banned the use of mercury in products. However, due to the over-saturated skincare marketplace and scarce or non-present ingredient lists on the Internet, it has become impossible for global agencies to fully monitor the sale of these harmful products.

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What can you do to avoid the risks?

Now, the question arises how can we avoid purchasing products laced with mercury? According to experts, to ensure that you’re not about to slather a mercury-laden cream all over your face, you must check out the ingredient list along with product details to find out what exactly the product has. Look for the following names – Hg, mercuric iodide, mercurous chloride, quicksilver, cinnabaris, and hydrargyri oxydum rubrum. And, if any of these names appear on the list, toss the product into the bin.

Also do not use skincare products that appear grey in colour, because products with very high levels of mercury can appear grey.

Moreover, look for conscious beauty brands that promote clean beauty. There’re plenty out there! And, lastly, be careful while picking products from Amazon or other e-commerce sites. Do the research first and then press the ‘pay’ button.