Your beauty cream can cause kidney problems, study reveals

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A recent study talks about how the use of beauty creams can lead to a kidney disorder called Membranous Nephropathy (MN). Keep reading to find out more.

If you have been consistently using beauty creams, this may be the time to exercise caution. Recent research reveals that beauty creams can offer much more than just glowing skin. It could also be causing kidney problems.

A study, published in International Kidney Journal, states that these creams contain a very high percentage of mercury and this can affect the kidneys. The study cites a kidney disorder called Membranous Nephropathy (MN) that can occur due to repeated use of beauty creams. High levels of mercury in beauty creams can damage kidney filters and lead to protein leakage. Severe cases of this condition can even develop kidney cancer.

In the study, 22 incidents of Membranous Nephropathy (MN) were recorded. The patients, who were treated at Aster MIMS Hospital, Kottakkal, between July 2021 and September 2023. Participants who had a history of using beauty creams had to undergo heavy metal testing in their blood and urine. The beauty creams used were also sent for chemical analysis.

Study results on beauty creams and their effects on the kidneys

The results indicated that there were 22 cases of MN. Of these, 15 people used beauty creams for a period of four months, before symptoms began to appear. Symptoms included fatigue, mild edema and increased foaming in the urine, the study states. He also adds that most patients had elevated levels of mercury in their blood and urine. Chemical analysis of the creams also reported high mercury content. Mercury toxicity has led to membranous nephropathy.

What is membranous nephropathy?

Membranous nephropathy, also known as membranous glomerulopathy, is a type of nephrotic syndrome that presents with massive proteinuria or elevated protein in the urine. “This can manifest clinically as peripheral edema, hypertension, foamy urine, with or without thromboembolic phenomena. It may be 80% of cases (primary) or 20% of cases due to another disease (secondary). Secondary causes can be infections, medications, heavy metals, some autoimmune diseases, 45% of which can be due to exposure to heavy metals or medications”, explains the nephrologist. Dr Topoti Mukherjee.

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It is important to note that approximately 30-40 percent of NM cases can progress to end-stage renal disease.

According to National Institute of Health, Membranous nephropathy is diagnosed after a kidney biopsy. It is treated with immunosuppressive therapy.

A woman with some cream on her cheek
Fairness creams can have many side effects such as rashes, inflammation, skin damage and skin thinning. Image courtesy: Freepik

Is membranous nephropathy reversible?

Yes, membranous nephropathy may be treatable depending on the cause. “Treatment mainly focuses on controlling blood pressure, controlling proteinuria, and sometimes it is necessary to administer immunosuppressive therapies,” explains Dr.

Read too: Keratin hair treatments can cause kidney damage, study reveals

Do fairness creams really work?

Are you wondering if fairness creams are worth the risk? Although these creams may create a temporary brightening effect, they do not permanently change your natural skin tone. Fairness creams contain ingredients that target melatonin. “Most of these creams contain hydroquinone, arbutin, kojic acid and also some steroids that inhibit melanin production or reduce melanin pigmentation in the skin”, explains the dermatologist. Dr. Priyanka Kuri. These fairness creams use AHAs or BHAs to exfoliate the top layer of skin, revealing the lighter cells underneath.

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Other risks of using beauty creams

There are several potential risks associated with fairness creams that pose risks such as:

1. Skin irritation and allergic reactions

Ingredients like hydroquinone can cause dryness, redness and itching in some people. A study, published in Indian Journal of Dermatology claims that fairness creams contain mercury and this can cause rashes, tremors, headaches, as well as weight loss and fatigue.

2. Skin thinning and damage

Prolonged use of certain beauty creams can cause skin thinning, fragility and increased susceptibility to infections. A study, published in Frontiers in Public Health, states that beauty creams contain hydroquinone, steroids, as well as mercury. This can cause inflammation and also weakening of the skin. In fact, fairness creams should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding as they can also cause abnormalities in the baby.

3. Uneven skin tone

Excessive use of beauty creams can sometimes result in an unnatural and uneven appearance of the skin, especially if used incorrectly or excessively. A study, published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Healthrevealed that beauty creams can lead to hyperpigmentation disorders and can cause spots on the face.

4. Increased sensitivity to sunlight

Some ingredients in beauty creams can make skin more sensitive to sunlight, causing sunburn and other sun-related damage. “By reducing melanin, beauty creams can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage. It’s important to look for creams with SPF protection,” says Dr. Kuri.

5. Long-term health risks

There is emerging evidence that suggests a link between the use of certain beauty creams and health problems such as kidney problems, as highlighted in the study explained above.

A woman with SPF written on her cheek
When choosing skincare products, it’s important to check the SPF. Image courtesy: Freepik

How to choose skin care products safely?

Over-the-counter beauty creams can be riskier than you might think. So, keep these points in mind before deciding on skincare products

  • Focus on healthy skin: Aim for a healthy, even skin tone rather than drastic lightening.
  • Consult a dermatologist: Discuss your goals and concerns with a dermatologist to get personalized recommendations on safe and effective skin care products.
  • Look for renowned brands: Choose products from well-known brands with clear ingredient lists and avoid those that contain mercury or harsh chemicals.
  • Solar protection: Instead of focusing on beauty creams, always use a broad spectrum cream sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to ensure skin health.
  • Consider alternatives: Explore natural skin care options, like vitamin C serums, or ask your dermatologist about safe whitening procedures.

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