25th April 2024

CTSI issues illegal cosmetics warning

Safety experts are warning the public of the dangers posed by illegal cosmetics.


By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
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Turning a blind eye is not an option when dealing with people’s health. Online marketplaces can and must do better

CTSI has launched a campaign warning of the dangers posed by illegal cosmetic products including skin lightening creams, teeth whitening kits and gel nail sytems.

The #CostofBeauty campaign highlights the harmful side-effects of non-compliant cosmetic products, which can include burns to the skin, pregnancy complications, and long-term health problems.

Trading Standards Officers around the country have intercepted dangerous cosmetic products at UK ports and borders — 88% of the cosmetic products checked by the Suffolk Trading Standards Imports Team in the past year alone were found to be unsafe or non-compliant.

Christine Heemskerk, CTSI Lead Officer for Product Safety, said: “Cosmetic products should attract compliments, not complications. These dangerous goods can leave the public with serious life-long side effects.

“Trading Standards will remove these products from sale and take action where needed, but online sellers need to take responsibility for the goods available for sale on their websites. Turning a blind eye is not an option when dealing with people’s health. Online marketplaces can and must do better.”

Illegal skin lightening products have been found to contain dangerous banned ingredients including hydroquinone, mercury and licensed medicines like corticosteroids.

Illegal teeth whitening kits containing as much as 300 times the 0.1% legal limit of hydrogen peroxide have also been seized, presenting the risk of burns and damage to gums.

And UV Gel nail treatments, which should only be administered by trained salon professionals but are being sold for home use online, contain acrylates which can cause allergies to develop, resulting in skin damage and lifelong side-effects.

Illegal skin lightening creams, teeth whitening kits and UV Gel nail systems are readily available to UK consumers on multiple websites, including online marketplaces.

According to Dr Emma Meredith, Director-General of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA), “The safety of our customers is the number one priority of the cosmetics industry and the UK has strict laws dedicated to the safety of cosmetic products and their ingredients. All cosmetic products legally placed on the UK market, even via online, must abide by these robust rules.

“CTPA would advise purchasing your cosmetic products from a reputable retail source and ensure they are correctly labelled with a full ingredients list.  If a product is labelled ‘for professional use only’, please only trust a professional to apply it for you, so you can get the results you want, safely.”

Mick Armstrong, Chair of the British Dental Association’s Health and Science Committee, said:
“At best, people may be wasting their money buying over-the-counter and online products to whiten teeth. Home whitening kits are likely to take longer and be less effective than treatment from the dentist.

“While hydrogen peroxide, as used in dental practices, is the gold standard for whitening teeth, the lack of clarity over chemicals used in over-the counter and online products means you could be gambling with your teeth.

“Some online products have been found to contain dangerous chemicals, including toxic or banned substances that can severely burn gums, or irreparably damage teeth.

“Dentists are trained to consider a patient’s wider health and detect problems, such as gum disease, that impact on the suitability of an individual to have their teeth whitened.  They also know what whitening products are effective to use, and safe for teeth and gums.”

Richard Knight, Specialist Trading Standards Officer at Essex County Council, said: “We urge consumers in England and Wales to report any suspicious cosmetic products or if they have experienced any adverse reactions after using a product to Trading Standards immediately by calling the free Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133. In Scotland, contact Consumer Advice Scotland on 0808 164 6000, or if in Northern Ireland, call Consumerline on 0300 123 6262.”

Resources to support the #CostofBeauty campaign can be found on the CTSI website.

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