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Are "High-Tech" Cosmetics Good For Your Health?

The science of cosmetics is going high-tech. So much so, companies are using a kind of mineral "ball bearing" and a substance called gamma-amino butyric acid (a common ingredient used in over-the-counter anti-anxiety supplements) to fight aging and promote smoother skin. But are these new technologies and chemicals really good for you?

Just like Big Pharma, the cosmetics industry is so driven by "that next big product." In fact, sales of facial treatments represented $7 BILLION of the overall $12 BILLION skin care market last year, boosted by annual growth of more than 6 percent over the last five years. And, as you probably know, skin creams aren't regulated by the FDA, so there is no approval process to measure the safety or effectiveness of any of these new products. Nevertheless, when there is money to be made, common sense and human safety typically go out the window.

One new product -- a newer version of an older lotion -- will rely on the same antiwrinkle ingredients as before, but add mineral "spheres" to help it travel deeper into the skin. Another moisturizer was created solely around a new method of teaming gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), which does not penetrate skin, with gynostemma, a plant extract that does. GABA "programs" the gynostemma to mimic its muscle-relaxing properties.

If you're considering any of these products, let me remind you of a recent warning about methylisothiazolinone (MIT), a potentially dangerous chemical found in shampoos, hair conditioners, hair coloring and hand lotions that may have detrimental effects on the nervous system. Whatever you spread on your skin has a very real chance of being absorbed into your blood stream and causing some serious damage to your body.

Wilimington Star-News January 8, 2005

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