Women have a long history of risking health for beauty. But several developments over the past few months suggest they might be starting to choose safer options.
1. Temporary tattoos. The latest trend on the runway and in the beauty isle is temporary tattoos, according to the advertising firm JWT. Chanel now offers limited-edition skin art, and Beyoncé has signed up to help sell Temptu’s product. Permanent tattoos not only cost more than temporary ones, but also pose a risk of infection and allergic reaction. And the inks used in some permanent tattoos contain pigments that can break down into cancer-causing compounds. Finally, if you have a change of heart, removing a permanent tattoo is often difficult and expensive. Temporary ones scrub right off.
2. Airbrushed tans. Many celebrities—Mariah Carey, Kim Kardashian, and Hilary Duff, to name a few—have turned to airbrush tans, which have gotten more natural looking lately. The sprayed-on makeup lasts about a week, providing bronzed-looking skin without the risks of wrinkles and skin cancer that come from tanning beds and sunbathing.
3. Soak-off gel manicures. To get manicures that last, women often must first get their nails roughed up with an electric drill, then have an acrylic or gel compound applied. But overfilling might damage the nail bed, cause nerve damage, and increase the risk of infection. And chemicals in the gels and acrylics can cause a variety of side effects, including irritation of the eyes, respiratory tract, or skin, and damage to the kidneys or liver. They’ve also been reported to trigger allergic reactions in people. But the latest techniques use soak-off gels that don’t require filing and are less likely to contain harmful compounds. Two such products are Creative Nail Design’s Shellac and OPI’s Axxium. In general, be suspicious of any nail salon that uses chemicals in unmarked bottles.
4. Pajama jeans. These pants feel like comfortable pajamas but look like skinny jeans, some women report. And they’re unlikely to cause the health problems that can come from too-tight garments, including bladder infections, constipation, pinched nerves, vaginal yeast infections, and even blood clots. If your pants take more than ten seconds to put on, leave them in your closet.
5. Formaldehyde-free keratin hair treatments. Some keratin hair treatments, used to tame frizzy or curly hair, contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. But after numerous complaints to the FDA of breathing problems, burning eyes, and headaches, many salons now offer formaldehyde-free keratin hair treatments. There’s some debate whether such treatments straighten hair as effectively. Far more worrisome, testers from the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services who sampled more than 100 “formaldehyde-free” products from 50 salons still detected “significant levels” of formaldehyde. The makers of Brazilian Blowout, one of the tested products, is suing the department, calling the test results false and misleading.
Orly Avitzur is medical adviser at Consumer Reports and blogs at the Consumer Reports Health Blog.
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