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01 October 2023

Cosmetics horror: Nickel in lipstick, mercury in fairness cream

By Lifestyle Correspondent

New CSE (Centre for Science and Environment) study finds mercury in fairness creams and chromium and nickel in lipsticks.
One of India’s largest studies on the presence of heavy metals in cosmetics has emerged with a startling finding: the fairness creams – ones which are endorsed by some of the biggest Bollywood names – could contain mercury, an element which is universally recognised as extremely toxic.

Lipsticks, which many of us can’t do without, may come packed with chromium, which is carcinogenic.

Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE’s) Pollution Monitoring Lab (PML), which did the study, says use of mercury in cosmetics is prohibited in India.

PML found mercury in 44 per cent of the fairness creams it tested. It also found chromium in 50 per cent and nickel in 43 per cent of the lipstick samples it tested. The lab also tested for lead and cadmium, but did not find any.

CSE director general Sunita Narain, said, “Mercury is not supposed to be present in cosmetic products. Their mere presence in these products is completely illegal and unlawful.”
“Additionally, the fact that our lab did not find mercury in 56 per cent of the products tested suggests that the industry has the capacity and wherewithal to clean up their act. Many companies are following the law – what is stopping the others from doing so?” she asked.

Said Chandra Bhushan, CSE deputy director general and head of its lab: “What is coming out very clearly is that this sector has extremely weak regulations and almost no enforcement of whatever laws that exist.”
The CSE study and its findings

73 cosmetic products of four different categories were tested for heavy metals: 32 fairness creams (26 for women and six for men) were tested for mercury. 30 lipsticks, 8 lip balms and 3 anti-ageing creams were tested for lead, cadmium, chromium and nickel. The samples included Indian and international cosmetic brands along with a few herbal products. The results:
Mercury: Found in 14 fairness creams tested by CSE in the range of 0.10 parts per million (ppm) to 1.97 ppm. Under the Drugs and Cosmetics Acts and Rules of India, Mercury is banned for use in cosmetics. Their presence in these products indicates that they are not meeting the law.

Aroma Magic Fair Lotion, a product of Blossom Kochhar Beauty Products Pvt Ltd, had the highest mercury level at 1.97 ppm, followed by Olay Natural White (1.79 ppm), a product of Procter and Gamble, India, and Ponds White Beauty (1.36 ppm) of Hindustan Unilever Ltd.

Chromium was found in 15 out of 30 lipsticks tested in the range of 0.45 ppm to 17.83 ppm. Hearts & Tarts (080V) shade of ColorBar had the highest concentration.

Nickel was found in 13 out of 30 products tested in the range of 0.57 to 9.18 ppm, with Lancome Labsolu Nu-204 of L’Oreal India Pvt. Ltd. containing the highest concentration.
CSE did not find any heavy metals in anti-aging creams and lip balms. It also didn’t detect Lead and Cadmium in Lipsticks.