18 cosmetic products found to contain high levels of mercury and other potent undeclared ingredients: HSA

The Health Sciences Authority said that some of these products had mercury levels exceeding the permissible limit by more than 27,000 times. Other potent ingredients found include hydroquinone and tretinoin, which could lead to serious adverse reactions. PHOTO: HEALTH SCIENCES AUTHORITY

SINGAPORE - The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has warned the public against buying or using 18 cosmetic products containing potent undeclared ingredients, including high levels of mercury.

In a statement on Friday (April 20), the authority said that some of these products had mercury levels exceeding the permissible limit by more than 27,000 times.

Other potent ingredients found include hydroquinone and tretinoin, which can lead to serious adverse reactions.

The list of products includes night creams, anti-acne treatments, whitening creams and facial toners.

These were sold at retail outlets and online platforms, with claims that they were able to improve complexion and skin tone.

The findings were from HSA's regular product quality surveillance activities, where health products marketed locally are sampled for testing.

HSA said that it has initiated a recall of the affected products from retail outlets, while the administrators of online sales platforms with the products have been told to remove their Web listings.

Mercury, which is a toxic heavy metal, is prohibited for use as an ingredient in cosmetic products, HSA said.

Regular application of creams containing mercury can lead to rash, skin discolouration and blotching, while long-term exposure to high levels of mercury in cosmetic products may cause serious health consequences, including damage to the kidneys and digestive and nervous systems.

HSA added that hydroquinone and tretinoin are potent ingredients used in Western prescription medicine for treatment of skin conditions, and are prohibited in skincare cosmetic products.

Products containing these ingredients should be used only under strict medical supervision, said HSA.

Inappropriate use of hydroquinone can result in changes in skin colour and adverse skin reactions such as rashes, redness and burning of the skin.

In the statement, HSA advised consumers with any of the 18 cosmetic products to stop using them immediately and to discard them.

Those who have adverse effects should visit a doctor, it added.

HSA also reminded consumers to be cautious when buying cosmetic products online or from unfamiliar sources, even if these are recommended by relatives or friends.

"You cannot be certain what these products contain, and where and how they were made," HSA said.

"It is advisable to buy such products from reliable and reputable sources such as registered pharmacies or established retail stores, and their respective e-commerce platforms."

Consumers should also be wary of cosmetic products that promise quick and miraculous results or carry exaggerated claims, said HSA.

Meanwhile, HSA warned those who have been selling or supplying the affected cosmetic products to stop immediately.

It is the responsibility of sellers and suppliers to ensure that the cosmetic products they market are safe for use, do not contain prohibited substances and comply with Singapore's regulatory requirements, said HSA.

The requirements include notifying HSA prior to selling or supplying the products.

Anyone convicted of supplying illegal health products may be jailed for up to three years and/or fined up to $100,000.

HSA said that it will not hesitate to take enforcement action against sellers and suppliers who peddle illegal health products.

The public can contact HSA's enforcement branch on 6866-3485 during office hours or e-mail hsa_is@hsa.gov.sg if they have information on the sale or supply of illegal cosmetic products.

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