Why You Should Keep Your Teen Away From Cosmetics

Using substandard skin products and fairness creams can have disastrous side-effects on your teenager. Parents, encourage her to be happy with her complexion and avoid harsh beauty products

By Sahana Charan  • 8 min read

Why You Should Keep Your Teen Away From Cosmetics

After seeing an online advertisement for a skin lightening product, 14-year-old Varsha got excited and decided to order the cream, without her parents’ knowledge. The insensitive comments that her relatives often passed about her dusky complexion, made her feel inadequate. This cosmetic promised quick results and glowing, light skin. Little did the teen know that it was a substandard product that contained harmful chemicals and had not gone through strict quality checks. Varsha was shocked when she developed bright red rashes all over her face. A visit to the doctor confirmed her worst fears.

The teenager’s experience is not an isolated one. A study published in the journal Biological Trace Element Research titled A Study of the Possible Harmful Effects of Cosmetic Beauty Products on Human Health (2016), reveals that beauty products contain toxic heavy metals such as zinc, cadmium and lead. The presence of these metals in lipsticks, lip glosses, eye shadows, and henna hair dye have allergic, irritating, and harmful effects on health.

Youngsters often face body image issues, and they may try to measure up to the unrealistic beauty standards projected by celebrities. This makes them try fairness creams, make-up and cosmetics. Teens also want immediate results, and that’s why they fall for substandard beauty products that can have adverse effects on their skin.

“Using a good cosmetic as per medical opinion is probably okay. But in their hurry to overdo things teenagers commit some cardinal mistakes,” - Dr Anil Abraham, noted Bangalore-based dermatologist.

What are these mistakes?

  • Teens use cosmetics that are cheap or dubious. Many cheap skin creams or products are mass-produced and harmful.
  • They forget to wash off their cosmetics before sleeping at night. This can clog the pores of teenage skin and cause acne
  • They use products used by friends, without understanding that their skin type may be different
  • They get taken up by the hype created by advertisements that announce the presence of ingredients like honey, jojoba oil or aloe. These are present in micro amounts, if any.

Harmful Effects on Teen Skin

According to Dr Abraham, harsh whitening products can result in acne or pimples, redness, allergies and wrinkled, sensitive skin. Some of the more dangerous whitening products contain steroids which can reduce thickness of the skin.

“The Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists and the Indian Dermatology Association have recognised this risk and issued warnings against the use of steroid-containing whitening or fairness creams. Ideally, these kinds of creams should not be available without a prescription. Even better would be if the concept of white skin as superior could be socially eliminated. It is an unfortunate colonial hangover. Dark skin has many advantages in a hot tropical climate,” he says.

Apart from trying cheap products, which teens may buy with their limited pocket money, they also try cosmetics that are not meant for them. Experts say that bleaching creams were originally meant for use by women to lighten the colour of their facial hair in women to make them less visible and are now marketed as fairness creams. These creams contain hydrogen peroxide, sodium hypochlorite, calcium hypochlorite, sodium per carbonate among others, which in due course of time makes your skin susceptible to pigmentation, so it becomes a vicious cycle. Bleaches finally worsen dark pigmentation, which tempts the teenager to try stronger fairness creams.”

What can Parents do?

In our society, majority of people are obsessed with certain western beauty ideals and this can lead to discrimination based on colour and looks. Even parents may unknowingly try to impose such standards on their children. Teens who constantly face bias because of the way they look, are likely to be low in confidence and have a negative body image.

“Parents must desist from comparisons and comments on skin colour. Fitting in should not depend on fairness. Even though this may sound radical, I wish film stars who claim to be role models would refuse outright to advertise fairness products. The concept that fair skin is needed to get a job or fall in love is ridiculous and Advertising Ombudsmen should come down heavily on such regressive advertising,” adds Dr Abraham.

Here are some important messages for parents and teenagers:

  1. Good food and regular exercise are the best way to have healthy skin
  2. Fair complexion is not a sign of beautiful skin. Enjoy and be proud of your natural skin colour
  3. Stop believing in fairness as a standard of beauty and speak up against this belief.
  4. Use cosmetics sparingly. If you are young, your skin would be naturally radiant
  5. If you have doubts about skin products, consult a qualified dermatologist, not the internet or a spa therapist.

Help your teens choose a healthy lifestyle and natural beauty over dangerous and harsh make-up and beauty products. It will help them in the long run.

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