Many products claiming to rid skin of wrinkles and fine lines actually strip away the protective top layer and leave it vulnerable to sun damage and dangerous toxins, according to Dr Sam Epstein, chairman of the US Cancer Prevention Coalition.
He said the active ingredient alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), found in many leading brands of face cream, were “probably the most dangerous cosmetic products on the market”. 'Miracle cream reverses ageing' Dr Epstein is campaigning for the creams to be regulated in the US and has urged British consumers to be aware of the health risks.
“So many women, and even some men, slather these products all over their skin in the naive belief that they have nothing to fear but ageing,” he told the Daily Express.
In Britain there is no requirement for a warning to be placed on creams containing AHAs, but the alleged dangers ahve already been recognised in the US. The US Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers that AHAs “could destroy the upper layers of skin, causing severe burns, swelling and pain”.
Dr Epstein, who is Professor emeritus of environmental and occupational health at the University of Illinois, added: “Anything that strips the surface of the skin not only risks sunlight penetrating the exposed layer but also allows other toxic products in. “All of the toxic effects are massively increased by AHAs.” Exposure to the sun's harmful rays can cause skin cancer.
Dr Epstein also expressed concern about other ingredients commonly used in anti-ageing products, such as limonene. “Apart from being an irritant, it is a well documented carcinogen,” he said. Britons spend £673million a year on skin care products, with 42 per cent of all moisturisers claiming to combat ageing.
A spokeswoman for the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Perfumeries Association, told the Daily Express that cosmetic firms were not required to warn consumers if their products contained AHAs but only if they contained these ingredients at such high levels they could be dangerous. She added: “There is a legal requirement for these products to be safe.”