Avoid skin-lightening creams ‘at all costs’

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Consumers are being warned to steer clear of skin lightening creams that can “act like paint stripper”.

The Local Government Association warns the products should be “avoided at all costs” after recent seizures by trading standards officers.

Many contained the bleaching agent hydroquinone – the creams can also contain mercury.

The British Skin Foundation said people should speak to a doctor if they had any concerns about their skin.

The LGA says the toxic products are being sold by rogue retailers, as well as online and at car boot sales and market stalls.

And they do not always spell out the correct levels of ingredients, putting consumers at risk.

Hydroquinone, described by the LGA as “the biological equivalent of stripper”, can remove the top layer of skin, increasing the risk of skin , and cause fatal liver and kidney damage. Mercury can cause similar -threatening problems.

Unless they are issued on prescription by a , creams containing hydroquinone, steroids or mercury are banned in the – because of their potentially -effects.

‘Avoid at costs’

The LGA highlighted several recent seizures including –

But the LGA said the ability of trading standards officers to keep on top of the problem was being threatened by to council budgets.

, of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Skin creams containing banned ingredients are very dangerous and could seriously damage your health, for life and even kill , so they should be avoided at all costs.

“Consumers should always check the ingredients of their skin creams, be suspicious of very low prices which are likely to indicate the lotion is fake and potentially harmful, and never use a containing hydroquinone.

“If the product doesn’t the ingredients at all, then don’t use it.”

He added: “Councils have been targeting rogue these banned creams and should report any concerns so that town halls can take action to prevent anyone from buying these lotions, potentially ruining their looks forever.”

Bickerstaffe, a for the Skin , said the issue of illegal skin lightening creams came up “year after year”.

She added: “It’s difficult to know whether the problem is increasing due to the illicit way the products are sold under the counter and .

“Ingredients in these can cause serious health problems and the British Skin Foundation strongly advises against using them.

“Speak to your dermatologist or GP if you have any concerns about your skin tone and they be able to advise accordingly.”

Have you used skin lightening creams? your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

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