Use of Certain Beauty Products Ups Risk of Diabetes

Researchers find an association between chemicals found in cosmetics and diabetes.

Certain chemicals in common cosmetics are associated with an increased risk of diabetes in women. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user duh.denise.

Beauty really does come at a price, according to new research that’s found an association between personal care products and diabetes.

A team of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, have found that certain chemicals found in moisturizers, nail polish, soap, hairspray, and perfume may increase one’s chances of developing diabetes. The team analyzed health and nutrition data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that involved 2,350 women ages 20 to 80 to reach the results.

Phthalate metabolites, which act as a vinyl softener in plastics, are commonly used in beauty products, according to the American Chemistry Council. The researchers in this study tested phthalate concentration in the women’s urine.

They found that women who had higher levels of phthalates in their urine were more likely to have diabetes. In particular:

1) Women who had the highest levels of the chemical mono-benzyl pthalate and mono-isobutyl phthalate had almost twice the risk of developing diabetes.

2) Women who had high levels of mono-(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate had about a 60 percent increased risk of developing diabetes.

3) Women with high levels of mono-n-butyl phthalate and di(2-ethylhexy) phthalate had a 70 percent increased risk of developing diabetes.

Other studies have examined the association between these chemicals and diabetes. For example, recent research published on the website Diabetes Care also found an association between high levels of phthalate metabolites and type 2 diabetes in the elderly. 

It’s worth noting that not only are the chemicals found in commonly used cosmetics, but they also exist in some medical devices and medication used to treat diabetes, according to Dr. Tamarra James-Todd, the study’s lead researcher. She notes, however, that the women involved in the survey self-reported their diabetes, and cautions against “reading too much into the study” as a result.

The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives