Mercury In Skin Lightening Creams

May 26, 2010, 5:26 amskintype

Mercury in Skin Lightening Creams

In ancient times, Romans and Egyptians used mercury to lighten the skin. It is used outside the US to lighten the skin with dangerous results. In the United States, it is widely known that mercury is poisonous and that it should be avoided in food and skin care. For this reason, I was shocked when The Chicago Tribune reported May 21st that over-the-counter skin lightening creams were reported to contain toxic levels of mercury.

At this time it is not known exactly which brands contain these creams but one website shares a list. (I do not know about the validity of this list as I do not know who owns and maintains that website). The Chicago Tribune notified retailers and many of them are pulling these dangerous products from the shelves. It seems that the culprits are products shipped from other countries. (Thank you Chicago Tribune for catching this!)

Mercury has been banned in the US in skin care products since 1990. It is absorbed into the skin and can lead to serious medical problems such as kidney disease and damage to the nervous system. The safety of cosmetics is governed by the United States Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (abbreviated as FFDCA, FDCA, or FD&C), which is a set of laws passed by Congress in 1938 giving authority to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to oversee the safety of food, drugs and cosmetics. Ira Allen, an FDA spokesman, stated last week that "We didn't know there was that kind of a risk, and we believe now there is a level of risk. We are going to follow up."

Drugs and cosmetics go through very different levels of regulation and inspection, with the drug rules being much more vigorous than the cosmetic regulations. For this reason, at this time my advice is to stick with a FDA approved skin lightening cream such as Tri-Luma. Tri-Luma is available by prescription only and contains hydroquinone which most dermatologists agree is safe. (In 2006 hydroquinone received some negative publicity and questions about its safety). For a non-hydroquinone option, I prefer Vivite Vibrance Therapy or Philosophy Pigment of Your Imagination. These are reputable brands that would not compromise customer safety.

The fact that mercury is being found in skin creams is a very upsetting issue. Please come discuss it with us at Stay tuned for information on the FDA response.


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