Cosmetics use and kidney disease: We Indians spend millions of rupees buying cosmetics every year through whatever sources we have without paying any attention to the health risks associated with their use.

The million-dollar question here is…

Are we potentially risking our lives with the rampant use of cosmetics?

Do we have any awareness regarding the harmful effects of cosmetics on our health – especially on our hearts, kidneys, and liver?

Cosmetics use and kidney disease – what is the link?

Before delving into the health hazards associated with cosmetics, let us look at the statistical report on cosmetics sales in India.

ccording to a report – in the past year, approximately 186 million cosmetics items were sold in the top 10 Indian cities.

Sales of cosmetics products have generated approximately 2000 crores in revenue in the financial year 2024 in India.

Lip products stood tall as the leading selling products in cosmetics – 65 million lip products sold annually in India.

28% of the products purchased online were cosmetics.

 What are the health risks associated with the use of cosmetic products?

Some chemicals in cosmetics can cause serious health issues, such as the following:

  • Mercury present in fairness and anti-aging creams can lead to kidney damage.
  • Phenol in chemical peels can damage your heart, liver, and kidneys.
  • Dibutyl phthalate and toluene in nail polishes can cause kidney damage
  • Hair dyes contain chemicals that are well known to cause kidney damage.

Anti-aging creams

A majority of the companies market their anti-aging creams as special with ingredients like vitamin C, and vitamin A – and their potential to remove wrinkles and fine lines. Some anti-aging creams contain mercury – a toxic heavy metal that can cause many health issues and damage your kidneys.

Be aware of the labels and be careful while selecting any anti-aging creams. Check labels for mercuric, Calomel, and mercuric chloride.

Fairness Creams

The use of fairness creams can increase the risk of kidney disease – warns a Recent Study in India!

Skin whitening creams (fairness creams) sell like hotcakes in Indian markets. The obsession with fair skin in society fuels this demand.

Skin whitening creams with high mercury content have been associated with membranous nephropathy (MN), which is  a condition causing protein leak in the urine and kidney damage .

Fairness creams also contain hydroquinone which can damage the kidney and liver.

According to a study conducted in  India between July 2021 and September 2023, the use of fairness creams with high mercury content was associated with membranous nephropathy (MN) [1].

In this study 13 out of 15  patients who developed kidney disease had a history of using skin fairness creams.

Nail polishes

Nail polish can  look trendy and fashionable, but it can potentially harm your kidneys. Long-term exposure to harmful chemicals such as toluene and phthalate in nail polish can damage your kidneys. Be careful with the labels while purchasing nail polishes.

Deep Chemical Peels or Phenol Peels

All chemical peels that are available as light, medium, and deep come with a claim to remove acne, create smoother skin, and remove wrinkles. They too come with health risks.

The health risks are mild for medium and mild chemical peels, but deep peels pose a huge risk due to their phenol or carbolic acid contents. Deep peels can damage your liver, heart, and kidneys. Irrespective of your health status, you should talk to your doctor before using any of these chemical peels.

Bottom Line

Cosmetics use and kidney disease: Beauty products are not always good for your health. Their regular use has been associated with health issues. However, the harmful effects on your health may depend on the duration of exposure; how you are exposed, the dosage, and the ingredients. Proper knowledge, awareness, and guidance from health experts are the best ways to prioritize your health and minimize side effects while using beauty products.

In conclusion, the message here is to avoid exposure to hazardous chemicals and protect your kidneys!

Don’t risk your health for outer beauty.


  1. NELL-1–associated membranous nephropathy linked to skin fairness cream use: insights from an Indian case series

Ranjit Narayanan, Sajeesh Sivadas, Anila Abraham Kurien