09 December 2015

Trading Standards officers are warning people to be cautious after skin-lightening products on sale in Northamptonshire were found to contain a banned substance.

The cosmetics included the ingredient hydroquinone, a substance that is banned from being supplied over the counter in such products, and also failed to have information on their packaging about where the product is from, as required by European law.

Skin-lightening products are largely marketed at men and women from ethnic groups, but can also be used to lighten blemishes and scars.

Skin-lightening creams

Banned substance

Northamptonshire County Council’s Trading Standards team has found products that are not labelled correctly and some that contain the banned substance hydroquinone in shops around Northampton.

Hydroquinone has been proven to be harmful to health and can cause permanent skin damage. Harmful effects include:

  • The body may overcompensate by producing more melanin, resulting in a darker, patchier appearance.
  • It damages the elastin strands in skin causing premature aging and weakening of the skin.
  • It can cause neuropathy, a disease of the nervous system.
  • It can damage the liver.
  • It increases the risk of developing skin cancer from UV radiation.

Approved skin lighteners can be prescribed by a GP or dermatologist but should only be used under medical supervision.

'Huge concern'

Cllr André Gonzalez de Savage, county council cabinet member public protection, strategic infrastructure and economic growth, said: “It’s a huge cause for concern that we’ve found cosmetic products on sale in Northamptonshire that contain such potentially harmful chemicals.

“I would encourage people not to buy these products over the counter and anyone who has purchased one should stop using the cream immediately.

“We will not hesitate to take action against traders who sell products containing banned substances and will continue to carry out inspections and test purchases to enforce the law.”

Counterfeit perfume

Northamptonshire Trading Standards has also intercepted 2,500 bottles of counterfeit perfume in the run-up to the festive period.

Anyone who has concerns about a banned or counterfeit cosmetic product, or would like to report a trader selling such items, can contact Trading Standards by calling the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.