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Is your skin lightening cream poisoning you?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Dermatology experts are warning against a hidden danger in skin-lightening products that contain mercury. Though the FDA limits the amount of mercury allowed in the products to 1 ppm, testing in 32 countries of the cosmetic found higher amounts of the toxin that could lead to skin,kidney and neurological problems.

Mercury in skin lightening products high

For their investigation the researchers purchased 549 skin lightening products online that were manufactured in 32 countries including the U.S., Japan and Taiwan. They also bought the products from stores in the United States, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, and Sri Lanka and then screened then for mercury above 200 ppm.

They discovered six percent of the products had high mercury levels above 1000 ppm. Forty-five percent contained mercury that was greater than 10,000 ppm. In the U.S. 3.3 percent of skin lightening products had mercury that exceeded 1000 ppm.

The finding that is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology

What happens from too much mercury

The finding is important to unwary consumers who buy skin lightening products to improved appearance. What could happen when we get too much mercury that is also in fish and in the air we breathe?

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According to a 2011 report PubMed, mercury absorbed through the skin is eliminated in the urine and isn't completely removed from the body for one to two months. Mercury poisoning has been reported from using skin lightening products.

When skin is poorly hydrated, more mercury is absorbed that deposits itself in the kidneys. The result is kidney damage that can be irreversible.

Mercury that could be cause poisoning from what we put on our skin can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms including excess salivation, nausea, a metallic taste in the mouth and inflammation of the gums and tongue.

Though the FDA has limited mercury in skin lightening products, the new investigation shows you may be getting a toxic dose of the metal when you put cream on your face. If you have been using any skin lightening products, and especially if you have health problems that include abnormal kidney function, memory loss, unexplained nausea, muscle weakness or numbness and tingling around the mouth or in the extremities, speak with your doctor who can perform a 24-hour urine test for mercury levels in your body.

FDA toxicologist Mike Bolger, Ph.D. said in a November, 2013 press release: “People—particularly children—can get mercury in their bodies from breathing in mercury vapors if a member of the household uses a skin cream containing mercury.” Infants and small children can ingest mercury if they touch their parents who have used these products, get cream on their hands and then put their hands and fingers into their mouth, which they are prone to do."

For skin-lightening that is non-toxic consider using a lemon to exfoliate. Rub one half of a lemon on your fact and let it sit for 5-minutes or less. Make sure you wash the lemon off completely so your skin won't be sensitive when you go outdoors. Lemons contain AHA (alpha hydroxy acids). Afterwards, slather your face with organic honey that is a wonderful way to introduce moisture to the skin. Leave the honey on for at least 20-minutes. Honey can also help treat acne because it has antiseptic properties.

Skin lightening products are likely to contain more mercury than consumers know, making it important to avoid the products. If you see the words mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury" on the label, don't use it. If you skin product doesn't have a label, don't use it. You can read more from the FDA here.

Image credit: Pixabay