Off late, interest in cosmetics derived from natural and organic sources has been on the rise. Such products are usually considered sustainable, effective and safe to use and dispose.

Several synthetic compounds are often used in the cosmetics to modify components derived from natural sources. This is done either to make them more effective or to enable them last longer. For instance, Formaldehyde is a chemical commonly found in body washes, cleansers, shampoos and conditioners. It is added to products as it prevents bacterial growth. As per American cancer society “Exposure to formaldehyde has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory test animals. Exposure to relatively high amounts of formaldehyde in medical and occupational settings has been linked to some types of cancer in humans, but the effect of exposure to small amounts is less clear”.

According to International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), Formaldehyde is carcinogenic to humans based on higher risks of nasopharyngeal cancer and leukaemia.

Valuable insights can be drawn from the previous setbacks of organic chemistry.
Several pharmaceutical drugs have been licensed only to be subsequently withdrawn due to their serious side effects. Similarly, many environmentally polluting chemicals were initially claimed to be safe and approved for use widely. These failures demonstrate that although chemical principles may be useful in the development of synthetic cosmetics, the potential for serious side effects must not be ignored (1)

Adapted from-Badiu D, Luque R and Rajendram R;
Chapter 123 – Effect of Olive Oil on the Skin; 
Olives and Olive Oil in Health and Disease Prevention 2010,
Pages 1125-1132;