High mercury levels in some foods, particularly fish products, have been a fairly well-known public health concern for years, but the FDA is now warning that this potentially harmful ingredient could be lurking in some of your anti-aging skincare products. Here’s what the latest research says about the presence of mercury in skincare, its risks and some alternative ingredients you can look for instead.
What Is Mercury, and What Is It Doing in Skincare Products?
Mercury is a metallic chemical element that is known to possess high toxicity levels. It has traditionally been used in devices such as thermometers and fluorescent lights, although many manufacturers now seek safer alternatives to use in place of mercury due to concerns about its potential health risks.
Despite warnings from the FDA, however, some skincare products that claim to lighten the skin or remove signs of age spots, discoloration and wrinkles still contain mercury as an active ingredient. Some acne products may also contain this ingredient. Because skincare and other cosmetic products containing mercury are banned in many countries, be wary of counterfeit or imported products that may have entered the United States illegally and therefore do not necessarily comply with FDA regulation (Chicago Tribune).
Exposure to mercury has been shown to cause serious adverse health effects, including liver and kidney damage, brain and nerve damage and heart problems (Scientific American). Pregnant women and children are at a particularly high risk for developing health problems associated with mercury exposure, but anyone can be seriously affected.
Although mercury is odorless and nearly impossible to detect without a lab test, you can check your skincare labels to see if it is listed in the ingredients. You may also see calomel, mercurous chloride, mercuric or mercurio listed, which all point to the presence of mercury.
If you discover that a product you’re currently using contains any of these ingredients, immediately stop using it and dispose of the product as you would a hazardous waste. Consult your family doctor or dermatologist right away.
Alternative Ingredients to Brighten the Skin’s Appearance
The good news is that there is absolutely no need to put your health at risk in order to achieve a smoother, brighter or younger-looking complexion. There are plenty of FDA-cleared skincare ingredients that can be very effective at brightening the skin’s appearance and imparting a youthful radiance for lasting results. Just some of these alternative skin brightening ingredients to look for include:
- Vitamin C: This is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to have skin brightening properties. For a brighter, more alert look around your eyes, use an eye cream like skinbetter science Daily Treatment Cream EYE that contains an effective concentration of vitamin C.
- Hydrating ingredients: Look for gentle, yet powerful hydrating ingredients in your anti-aging products, such as niacinamide, ceramides, fatty acids and jojoba esters to help revitalize your skin’s appearance and leave a glowing finish.
- Amino acids: These ingredients help to nourish collagen and improve the look and feel of skin firmness and youthfulness. You can find a blend of amino acids included in Intensive Treatment LINES.
Even though the U.S. FDA has banned skincare and cosmetic products that contain mercury, these products are still turning up throughout the country and worldwide. Be sure to read the ingredient list on any new skincare product before purchasing it, and if no list of ingredients is available, this is a major red flag. It will take a little extra time, but it’s well worth it to do some research to identify both the ingredients that you want to include and those to completely avoid in your skincare products before buying.