THURSDAY, Sept. 1, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Skin lightening products can be dangerous to consumers if they contain harmful ingredients that are illegal for over-the-counter sale, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Wednesday.
The potentially harmful ingredients are hydroquinone or mercury, the agency said in a press release.
People who have used products containing hydroquinone have suffered side effects, including rashes, facial swelling and permanent skin discoloration, the FDA warned. Mercury, on the other hand, is highly toxic and can damage the nervous, digestive, and immune systems as well as the lungs, kidneys, skin, and eyes.
Skin lightening products are marketed as treatments for uneven skin tone, acne, age spots, freckles, and wrinkles. Businesses may refer to skin lightening products as skin whitening, fading, smoothing, lightening, or lightening products. The products are often sold as creams, lotions, soaps or powders in stores that target Hispanic, Asian, African or Middle Eastern communities, the FDA said.
These products limit the skin’s production of melanin, which is responsible for skin, hair, and eye color. But hydroquinone and mercury can build up in the body over time.
“Skin lightening products containing hydroquinone are not approved for over-the-counter sale,” the FDA said. “However, you can get a prescription skin product containing hydroquinone from your doctor. The use of mercury in skin lightening products is prohibited.”
Consumers should check product labels and avoid those containing hydroquinone or mercury. Mercury can be listed as mercuric chloride, calomel, mercury, mercury, or mercury. Illegal products may be mislabeled. Avoid products with handmade labels, labels in languages other than English, or no label at all, the FDA said.
Report any adverse skin product reaction to your healthcare provider and the FDA at www.fda.gov/medwatch/report.htm or by calling 1-800-FDA-1088.
The World Health Organization has more on mercury in skin products.
SOURCE: US Food and Drug Administration, press release, August 30, 2022