Skin lightening: London businesses fined £168,000 for selling illegal cosmetics

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

Skin lightening: London businesses fined £168,000 for selling illegal cosmetics

Related tags Skin whitening

A total of 15 cosmetics businesses across London were collectively fined £168,579 in 2016 for the supply and retail of unsafe cosmetics products, according to new figures published by London Trading Standards.

According to the body, which represents the 33 Local Authority Trading Standards services in the London region, the majority of the prosecutions concerned the supply of skin lightening products that contained unacceptably high levels of skin bleaching agents.

These were predominantly seen in prohibited levels of hydroquinone, mercury and corticosteroids. In addition, the trade body notes, labelling breaches and lack of traceability was also an issue.

The prolonged use of such products can result in a host of health problems from skin thinning and discoloration to organ damage, and even cancer in the long run​,” the LTS states.

Highest amount of bleach ever found

According to the LTS, one of the products discovered in the co-ordinated London-wide campaign last year, Grace Due, contained 18% of the bleaching agent hydroquinone, which is believed to be the highest amount ever found by trading standards in such products.

Toxic mercury was also uncovered in the campaign: one soap product, Faiza Beauty Cream, contained 0.54% of the substance.

The results were achieved by five London boroughs who prosecuted a total of 17 individual Directors along with their 15 companies. The average penalty was £11,239.

Slipping through the ‘net

According to research by the LTS’s Regional Intelligence Service, illegal cosmetics sales are happening online as well as in stores.

The service found at least 15 online sellers of prohibited skin lightening products, using eBay as their platform. The body is currently making efforts to locate and tackle these sellers.

Steve Playle, a spokesperson for London Trading Standards has suggested that online retail will be the big battleground moving forward.

“Moving forward in 2017, we will be checking more online sellers to ensure such damaging products are not being made available,”​ he said.

The body has called for reports from concerned consumers, noting that anyone who has purchased a cream they think could be banned should stop using it immediately and report it to their local Trading Standards team. This can be done via the LTS’s reporting tool online.

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