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Why Skin Lightening Cream Sucks Because It May Have Mercury Not Listed in Ingredients

skin lightening cream

UPDATE AUGUST 2016: New information about mercury in skin lightening creams is offered below (in italics) before the original article.


A recent study in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology has revealed how common it is for mercury and other dangerous substances to be found in skin lightening products originating from countries around the world. One of the critical findings in the study was that of the skin lightening products found to contain mercury, none of them listed the toxin on the ingredient label. Therefore, even if a skin lightening product has an ingredient panel, it does not mean the manufacturer has revealed the presence of mercury.

In the study, investigators evaluated 29 products, and 22 of them contained illegal or banned ingredients, including mercury (12 products), steroids (13), and hydroquinone (11). The 22 products came from Italy (6), India (5), Democratic Republic of Congo (5), Cote d’Ivoire (2), USA (2), UK (1), and France (1). Two products contained all of the offensive ingredients.

One of the limitations of this study was that it did not include all internationally available skin lightening products. However, the findings serve as a warning that mercury and other dangerous substances are commonly found in these cosmetics and that the labels often do not reveal that information.

Many readers have posted questions here asking whether the skin lightening cream they are using contains mercury. Unfortunately, the lack of reliable information on these products has made it impossible for me to answer the questions with any certainty in most cases. Given that mercury is highly toxic, it’s better to stop using any product not verified to be mercury-free rather than risk your health. As an alternative, you can use natural means to lighten the skin, such as lemons, orange, yogurt, honey, gram flour, turmeric, and aloe vera gel.

Original Article: Scientists have found a new, faster way to detect mercury in skin lightening creams. Do you use such creams and could they be contaminated?

Some skin lightening creams have a highly undesirable ingredient that can prove hazardous to your health. To better protect consumers, a team of scientists has reported that they can now identify which creams contain dangerous levels of mercury much more quickly than they could in the past.

Both women and men seek skin lightening creams, which are popular among certain cultures and areas of the world, including Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. However, a combination of availability of skin lightening creams via the Internet, in ethnic stores, and from family and friends who travel and bring them to the US and other countries has broadened the risk to more and more people.

At the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, Gordon Vrdoljak, PhD, of the California Department of Public Health, announced he had found a faster, more efficient way to identify mercury in these skin creams. The method is called total reflection x-ray fluorescence, and instead of it taking days to process one sample, he and his team can now complete 20 to 30 samples in one day.

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The main reason such a discovery is important is that skin lightening creams and other cosmetic products are not well regulated or tested. Therefore, consumers are at risk of exposure to dangerous ingredients like mercury in skin lightening creams. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has very little oversight over cosmetic safety, although it can ban highly toxic materials such as mercury, which it has done.

Products made in other countries, however, or unscrupulous manufacturers in the United States can still add mercury to these creams, which they do because the toxic chemical is effective at making the skin paler and freckles fade. At the same time, mercury is highly toxic, especially to the central nervous system, and can be absorbed through the skin via creams. In some cases, individuals are even injecting these creams to lighten their skin.

According to Vrdoljak, while the limit on mercury in products in the United States is 1 part per million (ppm), he and his team have found levels as high as 210,000 ppm in some products. Mercury exposure can cause kidney damage, headache, fatigue, hand tremors, nausea, excessive salivation, inflammation of the tongue and gums, muscle weakness, depression, and suppressed cognitive functioning.

Anyone who uses skin lightening creams and who experiences any of these symptoms should ask their doctor to run a urine test for the presence of mercury. Even if no symptoms occur, it may be wise to consider other skin lightening options, such as lemon juice, or have your product tested.

Earlier study
In an earlier study of skin lightening cream and mercury that was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, investigators evaluated 549 skin lightening products made in 32 different countries. They were looking for products that had mercury levels greater than 200 ppm.
They discovered that:

  • 45 percent of the products had mercury levels greater than 10,000 ppm
  • 3.3 percent of the products in the US had mercury levels greater than 1,000 ppm
  • 6 percent of the products overall had levels greater than 1,000 ppm

Bottom line
Now there is a method that can quickly and accurately test skin lightening creams for mercury content. If you are concerned about a product you are using, talk to your dermatologist about whether it is possible to have your skin lightening cream tested.

If you use any type of skin lightening cream, regardless of where you purchased it, there is the possibility it contains mercury. The presence of any of the symptoms mentioned is a clear sign you should see your doctor as soon as possible for screening.

American Chemical Society
Environmental Working Group
Maneli MH et al. Combinations of potent topical steroids, mercury and hydroquinone are common in internationally manufactured skin-lightening products: a spectroscopic study. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology 2016 Mar; 41(2): 196-201



Rush: I could not find any reliable evidence that Kim White Pearl Lotus Cream does or does not contain mercury. Since you are uncertain and it is irritating your skin, perhaps you should find an alternative cream that is verified to be mercury-free and that will hopefully not cause skin irritation.
Hi Déborah, you did not answer my question ... Please please let me know about piona products.
Ines: My research did not turn up any evidence that Piona products contain mercury. However, that does not mean they do not, since many manufacturers do not reveal all the ingredients in their products.
Hi, my friend has used Be Be Special Cream (Cambodian) for a year and it gave her an amazing results. She just introduced it to me. Please let me know about this product. Does it contain mercury?
Hi. Did you ever receive confirmation on your question about the CCM BB Special Cream? I asked about that too. I have not found this brand on any list but may have been missed. Christine
Christine: I do not know whether Be Be Special Cream contains mercury or not. Just because a product is not on a list saying that it contains mercury does not mean there are not many products that do. Products that provide great results may be doing so at the expense of your health. Generally, unless a product specifically says it does not contain mercury, it is probably best to look for one that makes that claim.
Hi Deborah, Thank you for your kind advice. The world I'd a better place because of people like you:) I wanted to ask you if the Elite 3 in 1 cream by Nguyen Quach contains mercury or other harmful ingredients? Looking forward to hearing from you, thank you so much.
Thank you Deborah for all of your research and advice. The world definitely needs more people like you. I was wondering if the Elite 3 in 1 cream by Nguyen Quach contains mercury or other harmful ingredients? Thank you so much, looking forward to hearing from you
Gina: Thank you for your kind words. I did not find this product on any lists of skin lightening creams that contain mercury. However, that does not mean it is mercury-free. Since there is some uncertainty and your health may be at risk, I suggest you switch to a known mercury-free product, or consider using natural ways to lighten your skin, such as vinegar, lemon juice, and turmeric.
Hi, can you let me know wether Tabita (skincare from Indonesia) has Mercury inside of it? Many rumors has been going on that Tabita aka Desi Damanyathi Skin Care is not good for you coz its contain Mercury.. Can you let me know? :/ Thanks.
Iely: Thank you for the question. I also have seen some statements about the presence of mercury in this product, but I cannot confirm nor deny them. Since there is uncertainty about this product, and your health may be at risk, I suggest you switch to a product that is mercury-free or consider using natural ways to lighten your skin, such as turmeric, vinegar, and lemon juice.
Hi. I bought a BECKON green tea whiten antispeckle series cream. Its from a company called shantou herbal- hall cosmetics co. Does it contain mercury? I have used it for one week only and there are no side effects so far. Im really concerned.
PLS, does rapid white lightening and moisturizing body milk contains steroids? have been using it for two weeks now and no side effects tho
I also want to confirm if the Amos white day and night cream also contains steroids. I bought it to clear facial spots, freckles and sunburn. have been using it for a week.. no side effects yet
Does pop popular SPA body whitening cream with pearl extracts contains mercury
Hi, I have been using Action C beauty cream for a while now and I have heard rumors that it contains Mercury although the ingredients or website does not report any. Could you please advise me as to whether this cream contains Mercury or not?
Bharat: Thanks for the question. I've been unable to find accurate information on the possible presence of mercury in Action C beauty cream. Given the uncertainty about so many of these whitening creams, it may be best to turn to natural methods, such as vinegar, turmeric, and lemon juice.
How much mercury use in Golden pearl Whitening Cream per kg?
what about sandal beauty cream they say its compeletely herbal , well is it ??? i appreciate your work
does olay natural white cream contain mercury ?
Dipal: Sorry it took so long for me to reply. Olay Natural White Day Cream appears to be a safe product.
Hi there, I was wondering if Pure skin Vanishing lotion by Morgan and Thompson if it contains Mercury and/or Roids. It states it's HQ fee and list all natural ingredients, but I want to make sure because you never know....Your quick response will be much appreciated.. Thanks...
Lala: I cannot answer your question with any certainty. I did a search for Morgan & Thompson Laboratories and could not find them on the internet. If there is contact information on the product, I suggest you contact them with your question. Alternatives would be to switch to a product that states they are mercury free or have the product independently tested.
Hello, has anyone tested the African Queen Beauty Cream "MJ" to see if it has mercury in it?
Hi Deborah, First of all, I would like to thank you for taking the time to respond to all of us ladies whom have a concern for our health and for doing a good deed of protecting our health and yet can still use the right cream for our beauty. I have been using for a short time now the ROJZY JIALI "The Whitening Energy Unassailabe Beauty" with listed Ingredients as following: Paraffin oil, Cetyl alcohol, Carnauha wax, Pearl Powder, and Vaselin. Content 10g. I was looking as where to buy more and happen to see of mentioning of Mercury of Whitening Cream which raise a health concern if this ROJZY JIALI is safe or not safe to use. When you have sometime, can you look it up for me please if this is a SAFE WHITENING CREAM to use. Or do you have any recommendation for us ladies of the list of products for Whitening cream that is SAFE for us to us. Many thanks for your time, and I am sure many of us are appreciate of your time for keeping all of us young & women safe. Regards, Jennifer
Jennifer: Sorry it took so long for me to reply. Tracking down the ingredients in whitening creams often leads to dead ends. Manufacturers are often not forthcoming about their ingredients. Since they do not have to list every ingredient, consumers do not know what is really in the product. One source of information is the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, which rates cosmetics and lists ingredients. However, many foreign products are not listed. Some whitening products that appear to be safe include Juvabrite, Olay Natural White Day Cream, Purely Bright Serum, Illuminatural 6i, Revitol Skin Exfoliator, and Revitol Rosacea Cream. I have no personal knowledge or experience with these or any other whitening creams. I suggest, as I have elsewhere in the comment section, that to be safe, women should consider going the all-natural route: vinegar, turmeric, and/or lemon juice.
Hi does white gold extra whitening cream have mercury or hydroquinone.Is it a safe product to use.Thank you
Hi.. plz tel me does O white cream has mercury? How abt using malederm cream? Will that brighten skin?
Zee: I cannot find reliable information about O White Cream. Many whitening products available from the Far East and Asia have mercury but will not state so on the label. When in doubt, it is best to only use a product that states it does not contain mercury. Also look for the name "calomel," which is a type of mercury. Natural ways to lighten the skin include vinegar, turmeric, and lemon juice. These choices are always the safest!
Hey can u please tell me which whitening cream is safer and does not contains murcury please tell me any night cream without murcury thanx