Herbal may not be safe

An AIIMS study warns of cosmetics complicating skin disorders

New Delhi, September 3—If you are thinking of going for that herbal hair dye for its so-called ‘skin-friendly’ properties, you need to reconsider your choice. Any product carrying the ‘herbal’ label may not be necessarily good for you.

A recent test conducted by All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi has found that herbal hair dyes and fairness creams are harmful to the skin as they contain “allergy-causing agents”, which are harmful to the skin.

During the test, the researchers examined as many as 106 patients who complained of skin diseases. “We did a patch test on all patients, who had classical cosmetic dermatitis and those with induced skin darkening (pigmented cosmetic dermatitis)”, a report in Timesnownews.com quoted Riti Bhatia, Dermatologist, AIIMS, Rishikesh as saying. Most common symptoms are redness, itching, making face skin and neck becomes brown and later slate grey, she added.


The study revealed that when hair dyes were tested, they were found positive for causatives of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). Skin lightening creams revealed harmful preservatives and antioxidants.

The major concern for the researchers is the fact that the cosmetic industry does not reveal what ‘kind of ingredients’ are being used in their products.

The report quoted Dr VK Sharma, Professor and head of Dermatology department at AIIMS saying, “Patients were tested with the Indian standard series, Indian cosmetic and fragrance series, and personal cosmetics and, in relevant cases, hairdresser series. About 77 patients were positive with allergy-causing agents like cetrimonium, gallate mix and thiomerosal (a preservative that contains mercury) which is mostly found in skin fairness creams and PPD (p-phenylenediamine) allergic element present in herbal hair dyes.”

Speaking to HealthWire, Dr. Himanshu Kumar, Dermatologist, ESIC Medical College and Hospital, Faridabad said, “Majority of herbal hair dyes and over the counter cosmetic products like fairness creams are a cause of contact dermatitis in unaware patients. The main causes of allergic rash to hair dyes is because of Para Phenyl Diamine (PPD) and a mix used by manufactures to impart fragrance, as reported in multiple studies. Another common case of dermatitis we encounter in patients is of Bindior Sindoor (vermilion) which contains allergens like Para tertiary butyl phenol and Azo dyes. Manufacturers should mention ingredients of such facial cosmetics and dyes and there should be measures to report adverse reactions so that proper regulations can be put in place. Although we can manage these patients but repeated episodes can become chronic and non-responsive to treatment.”

If physicians are to be believed, the presence of PPD used in most of the herbal hair dyes to improve its effect is a worrying aspect as the product label never mentions PPD as an ingredient. According to AIIMS experts, women are more prone to have skin allergies than men and around 13-18 per cent get affected by it. Cosmetics are one of the very common causes of dermatitis.


External factors like cosmetics, topical medicaments and parthenium, are the major factors of dermatitis. About 7-8 per cent of the adult population are affected by eczema and its prevalence keeps increasing with age.


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