In the Renaissance and onward well into the 19th century, women used lead-based makeup to keep their skin fair and youthful looking. Sadly, lead poisoning was common. While most of us assume our beauty products have evolved since then, that's not always the case. There've been plenty of studies showing evidence of lead still present in lipstick, and now a Chicago Tribune investigation found mercury in six of the 50 lightening creams it tested. The levels were high enough, in fact, to cause kidney damage, even though using mercury in cosmetics has long been illegal in the US. On top of that, mercury is easily absorbed through the skin, making it particularly dangerous when used in cosmetics. I'm not a big fan of lightening creams in general, because I think the skin you were born with is beautiful as it is. I do understand, though, that some people use creams to even skin tone or get rid of hyperpigmentation, age spots, and sometimes freckles. However, there are also plenty of other options available — like kojic acid and alpha hydroxy acid, for example. According to the article, lightening product sales are projected to reach $76 million annually by 2015, so it's obvious they're here to stay. What are your thoughts? Do you use lightening products, and if so, how closely do you check the label?