Anti-age creams cancer danger

8 10 2009


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Our much loved anti-ageing creams are stripping away layers of skin

Thursday October 8,2009

By Victoria Fletcher

ANTI-AGEING creams regularly used by millions of Britons could increase the risk of cancer, a top expert warned yesterday.

The revolutionary creams that promise to smooth away the fine lines of ageing can strip the skin of its protective top layer.

According to a leading US professor, this could expose the skin to dangerous toxins and make it more prone to sun damage. Dr Sam Epstein, chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, said that popular ingredients in anti-ageing creams called alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) were “probably the most dangerous cosmetic products on the market”.

He is now calling on the American safety body to introduce new regulations to protect consumers and urged British shoppers to also be aware of the risks.

“So many women, and even some men, slather these products all over their skin in the naive belief that they have nothing to fear but ageing,” Dr Epstein said.

The British cosmetics industry must comply with EU rules on what ingredients to use and what warnings to place on labels.

At present, there is no requirement for a warning to be placed on creams containing AHAs.

In America, however, the ingredient was considered dangerous enough to prompt the US Food and Drug Administration to warn consumers that AHAs “could destroy the upper layers of skin, causing severe burns, swelling and pain”.

Dr Epstein, who is Professor emeritus of environmental and occupational health at the University of Illinois, made his comments about the US cosmetics industry.


But he told the Daily Express they were just as relevant to British anti-wrinkle creams.

“Anything that strips the surface of the skin not only risks sunlight penetrating the exposed layer but also allows other toxic products in,” he said. “All of the toxic effects are massively increased by AHAs.”

Dr Epstein also expressed concern about other ingredients commonly used in anti-ageing products, such as limonene. “Apart from being an irritant, it is a well documented carcinogen,” he said.

Britons spend £673million a year on skin care products, with 42 per cent of all moisturisers claiming to combat ageing. In a bid to keep up with demand, skin care companies have developed more intensive treatments in the fight to maintain beauty.

Although they can have biological effects on the skin, the firms are careful never to make their products too medicinal as they would then be subject to far stricter regulations as medicines rather than cosmetics.

A spokeswoman for the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Perfumeries Association, said cosmetic firms were not required to warn consumers if their products contained AHAs but only if they contained these ingredients at such high levels they could be dangerous.

She added: “There is a legal requirement for these products to be safe.”




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