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Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience
Fact-checked by Aditya Nar, B.Pharm, MSc. Public Health and Health Economics

We’ve had enough women diabetics asking us whether they should blame cosmetics for their diabetes. We present some facts on this topic in this article, you can then choose to take your stand.

Blame your exposure to chemicals?

Did you know what’s common between your lipstick and detergent? Your nail-polish and building materials? It’s groups of chemicals called phthalates and endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Now, some studies have associated higher levels of phthalates with diabetes.(1, 2) And women may particularly be vulnerable as they have shown higher urinary concentrations of certain phthalates than men do. This could possibly be due to higher use of personal care products.(3) 

Another study has linked exposure to higher levels of phthalates in men to increased waist circumference and insulin resistance, both of which are risk factors for diabetes.(4)

A growing body of data has underlined the role of EDCs in disrupting the metabolism and triggering insulin resistance, obesity and diabetes.(5)

As of now, an association has been established, not a cause. According to Dr Parinitha Rao, consultant dermatologist in Bangalore, “Phthalates in cosmetics can predispose or increase the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. But minor levels are not much of concern.”

Diabetes is associated with a number of risk factors. Exposure to chemicals is just one of them. Watch your diet, stay physically active and choose your lifestyle wisely. But yes, it is wise to reduce your exposure to all kinds of chemicals in your daily life.

You just don’t have to completely do away with all those cosmetics. Look for phthalate-free products. Some countries have already banned many types of phthalates from use in cosmetic products. “There are phthalate-free cosmetics available in India,” adds Dr Rao.

Photo Courtesy: Pixabay


[1] Chevalier N, Fénichel P. [Endocrine disruptors: A missing link in the pandemy of type 2 diabetes and obesity?]. Presse Med. 2016 Jan;45(1):88-97. doi:10.1016/j.lpm.2015.08.008. Epub 2015 Dec 2. French. PubMed PMID: 26655260.

[2] James-Todd T, Stahlhut R, Meeker JD, Powell SG, Hauser R, Huang T, Rich-Edwards J. Urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations and diabetes among women in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008. Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Sep;120(9):1307-13. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1104717. Epub 2012 Jul 13. PubMed PMID: 22796563; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3440117.

[3] Sun Q, Cornelis MC, Townsend MK, Tobias DK, Eliassen AH, Franke AA, Hauser R, Hu FB. Association of urinary concentrations of bisphenol A and phthalate metabolites with risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective investigation in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and NHSII cohorts. Environ Health Perspect. 2014 Jun;122(6):616-23. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1307201. Epub 2014 Mar 14. PubMed PMID: 24633239; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4050512.

[4] Silva MJ, Barr DB, Reidy JA, Malek NA, Hodge CC, Caudill SP, Brock JW, Needham LL, Calafat AM. Urinary levels of seven phthalate metabolites in the U.S. population from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2000. Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Mar;112(3):331-8. Erratum in: Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Apr;112(5):A270. PubMed PMID: 14998749; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1241863.

[5] Stahlhut RW, van Wijngaarden E, Dye TD, Cook S, Swan SH. Concentrations of urinary phthalate metabolites are associated with increased waist circumference and insulin resistance in adult U.S. males. Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Jun;115(6):876-82. Epub 2007 Mar 14. Erratum in: Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Sep;115(9):A443. PubMed PMID: 17589594; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1892109.

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