Chemical in fake tan and make-up linked to obesity and diabetesPhthalates are widely used in a range of cosmeticsStudy finds link to weight gain and insulin resistance



12:31 GMT, 13 April 2012

A study found that a chemical commonly used in cosmetics can increase the risk of obesity

A study found that a chemical commonly used in cosmetics can increase the risk of obesity

A chemical used in make-up and self tanning lotions has been linked to obesity.

Scientists found that those who were exposed to phthalates, a man-made substance included in a variety of common consumer products, were more prone to weight gain.

And subjects with even 'modest' levels of the substance in their bloodstream were twice as likely to develop diabetes.

One billion tons of phthalates are produced worldwide each year and they have been widely used as gelling agents in cosmetics,
cleaning products and to make plastic bottles for more than half a

But now mounting evidence suggests they could have a negative health impact, prompting the body to store more belly fat and become resistant to insulin as they disrupt the hormone balance.

Lead researcher Monica Lind, associate professor of
environmental medicine at Uppsala University in Sweden, said: 'Those
pollutants containing phthalates are making people obese and now we
find they could get diabetes. These products need to be tested.

'Many are
used in body products, like face creams, fake tan, make up and perfumes.
Not only does the packaging contain them, but they are absorbed into
the body and bloodstream through the skin.

'In perfume, we inhale the phthalates that are used to delay the scent and increase the lifetime of the perfume.'

Data from 1,000 people aged over 70 was looked at during the study and in total 119 had diabetes while 88 of them had a history of the condition.

Phthalates crept into widespread use over the last several decades because of their beneficial chemical properties (picture shows the general chemical structure)

Phthalates crept into widespread use over the last several decades because of their beneficial chemical properties (picture shows the general chemical structure)

taking into account factors that are known to cause type 2 diabetes,
including obesity, smoking and high cholesterol, they found people with
higher levels of phthalates in their blood were more likely to develop insulin resistance.


If you want to avoid the chemical calorie trap, here are some products to try:

Liz Earle Botanical Shine Shampoo. A plant-based shampoo six years in the making, it contains a cleansing agent derived from coconut, aloe vera and shea butter to moisturise and cleanse (8/200ml, Magic. This natural skin balm contains honey, olive oil, royal jelly and bee propolis and is the beauty secret of Eva Mendes, and Gisele Bundchen. Can be applied to face and body (25/118ml,, 020 7720 1441).
Aromatherapy Associates Triple Rose Renewing Moisturiser. A gentle moisturiser containing extract of three rose varieties to help wth skin regeneration as well as frankincense and soothing sandalwood (49/50ml,
John Masters Lavender and Rosemary shampoo. With no colourings or chemicals of any kind, this hair range contains mild cleansers along with lavender and rosemary, which are known to help regulate and soothe the scalp (16/237ml,
Dr Hauschka Rose Day Cream. A favouite of Madonna, this classic moisturiser contains rose oil and wild rose hip extract to strengthen the skin and soothe redness (23.95/30ml, and Space NK).
Golden Silk Oil. Consisting of 100 per cent wild camellia oil, this versatile product can be used as a lip gloss, hand lotion, night cream and to tackle stretch marks (11.99/30ml,

It is thought that in men phthalates have an anti-testosterone capacity linked to weigh gain, while in women they disrupt the hormone balance similar to those that might occur during the menopause or at puberty.

Research conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found most personal care products that contain phthalates fail to list them on the label.

However Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK raised concerns over the recent study and the sample selected.

He said: 'This paper attempts to link the presence of phthalates in the bloodstream and the presence of Type 2 diabetes in an elderly population.

'It is a difficult area to research and this study was based on a relatively small number of white adults over 70 years old. It shows an association between some metabolites, which are breakdown products, and the presence of Type 2 diabetes, but does not show that their presence causes Type 2 diabetes.

'We would be concerned if the reporting of this study diluted the very simple and evidence-based message that limiting the amount of calories in your diet and being regularly physically active is the best way of maintaining a healthy weight and so reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes.'

Following the publication of the findings in the journal Diabetes Care, Lind added: 'Although our results need to be
confirmed in more studies, they do support the hypothesis that certain
environmental chemicals can contribute to the development of diabetes.'

Dr Paula Baillie-Hamilton, author of Stop the 21st Century Killing You and a researcher on human metabolism who has studied the connection between chemicals and obesity at the University of Stirling, is convinced that the abundance of chemical calories in our lives is the reason why so many people are getting fatter despite dieting and exercising more.

‘It’s a theory that was poo-pooed a decade ago but which has become a new field of medicine in itself,’ says Dr Baillie-Hamilton.

In 2003 the European Union passed legislation banning some phthalates in cosmetics and has kept three phthalates out of toys since 1999.