From time to time there are matters brought up for scrutiny which cause alarm; some, such as the use of mercury—a dangerous element that is has been known for ages to cause grave health dangers—in products used by consumers. Most people are already aware of mercury’s use in dental fillings and some vaccines. We are warned of the dangers of mercury ingestion from eating certain fish, especially for pregnant women. In cosmetics, though? Didn’t they stop using it for such items a long time ago, many would think?
The answer is no. The general public may be aware, as well, that this substance was used in the distant past in making of hats, to shape them. The term “mad hatter” is derived from the fact that those using the chemical in hat-forming were influenced by the contact with mercury, causing them to suffer from mental disabilities. In women’s make-up, however, mercury and other heavy metals have long been employed.
The state of Minnesota has banned the use of mercury in products used by the public in general. Shouldn’t the FDA take a similar step? They already have issued warnings on the subject (see http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm294849.htm).
Some mascaras and other eye cosmetics are the primary source of contact with mercury for the majority of females. It’s downright scary, considering we are always told to avoid getting any chemicals in or near our eyes, that many women are doing just that on a daily basis. The results are often more insidious than the mere itching, burning and watering many experience from irritation brought on by make-up. The human body tends to absorb many substances far more easily than we are misled to believe. If it were not so, transdermal patches would be ineffective. Mercury, for one example, is very readily absorbed via the skin and hair. One may indeed wonder if much of the mental illness pervading the industrialized world is the product of such infiltration of the bodies of those wearing mercury-laced cosmetics. One of the numerous symptoms of mercury poisoning, in fact, happens to be depression.
Other so-called beauty aids which frequently contain mercury—although it may not always be listed as such—are the skin lighteners. There is a disturbing trend among many women (and sometimes men as well) to alter their skin color to a much lighter hue. Aside from the outrageous idea that lighter skin is preferable, bringing up many questions about how far the world has progressed in matters of racial equality, the mere notion of social pressure to change one’s skin color despite the health risks is an abomination. There is nothing wrong with the skin color you were born with, people! How is it that so many of paler pigmentation spend much time and money trying to darken their tone, while those already endowed with a lovely darker skin of any shade are endangering their lives to change it?
No matter what the reason, no matter how much peer pressure you may be under, it is certainly not worth poisoning yourself to look like whatever society currently dictates is desirable. Trends change and hopefully this one will end soon. Mercury is poisonous and nothing, however, will change that. In school labs they now teach students not to even touch mercury with their bare hands. When will people outside labs learn that it’s equally dangerous to put mercury on any part of our bodies, inside or out?
The following link shows a partial list of beauty products known to contain mercury:
For a list of symptoms of mercury poisoning, see the following link: