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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



Hello Rimx: 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 please tell me about fair&lovely and faiza whitening cream are these cream contains mercury? if yes then how much ppm of mercury these cream contains ?since year or two I m using fair& lovely and from 7 to 6 months I m using faiza but when I know about dangerous effect of mercury so I stop using these products from last week....but know I have some questions in my mind that is there any safe whitening cream available in market with out any harmful ingredients?if yes so please suggest me ...and other worry for me is that is mercury side effect curable or not ?because I have headache issue now I thought it just because of using these cream now I stop useing these products now its okay or concerns Dr about headache? Please reply me in detail thanks in advance
Sarim: Thank you for your questions. Since the makers of many of these products are not forthcoming about the ingredients, I do not know if and/or how much mercury may be in Fair & Lovely and Faiza. Your headaches may or may not be related to your use of these products. Headaches have many different causes. Regarding safe products, please see my response to Rimx above for some suggestions. The safest approach is to use all-natural substances, such as vinegar, lemon juice, and turmeric.
could you pl tell me about goree whitening cream of mercury level? is it bleaching cream? is this product safe? Please let me know. Thanks.
I want to know goree cream is safe or not?
Is sandal whitening beauty cream contain mercury or steroids??
Javeria: The label does not reveal any mercury or steroids, but that does not mean they are not present in this product. The cream contains several parabens and pore clogging ingredients.
does goree night cream contain any harmful chemicals
is Yong Chin whitening cream contains mercury?is it safe or not??
Cud u please tell me if jiaoba whitening cream contains mercury. The product is from korea
Hie I need to know if the new aichun skin whitening cream with vitamin c.....safe for my face. ..does it contain mecury
what about "goree beauty cream"?
Hi plz let me know is chandni whitening cream safe to use... As iam shocked with its amazing results...
how about st.dalfour france original whitning cream???? is it safe???? does it contains mercury??? please let me know soon....please
how about st dalfour orihinal france whitning cream???? does it contain mercury???????????????.
may i know about the Goree cream??
Hi please advise if white gold extra whitening cream is safe to use. Does it contain mercury or any other harmful chemicals. Thanks to advise.
hi I am using dr. alvin whitening cream from Philippines is that cream contains mercury? coz the effect is so fast fairer skin specially on face
Does Nivea crème contains mercury???
Hi,I'm from Singapore.I've been using a skin care product namely Tati Skincare for 6 months. can u please help check in the ingredients ?I'm afraid they contain mercury because my skin were flawless once but now I feel like my face turning grey
Elin: I cannot verify the ingredients in Tati Skincare. This product, like so many others, do not list their ingredients or don't reveal all of their ingredients on the label. I would you suggest you stop using the product immediately given the change in skin color you are experiencing. If possible, you could have the product analyzed at a laboratory. However, I also suggest you see a physician and be tested for mercury exposure.
Hi there, I've been using sandal skin whitening cream for my acne and dark spots on my face Does this product contain mercury?
Hi: I could not find evidence that this product contains mercury nor that it does not. It does not appear on the following list of products with mercury: http://whiterskin.info/mercury-is-a-dangerous-skin-lightening-ingredient/#Listcreams However, that does not mean Sandal Skin Whitening Cream is safe. Home test kits for mercury are available; you may want to check this product or any others you choose to use.
Thank you for your reply, the reason i had asked about this Sandal Product containing mercury is due to the fact that after using this cream i see rapid results in a matter of 3-4 days and although my face is prone to having average acne and dark spots, after using this cream, within and after those days all of these spots and acne would be gone. However, after my cream is finish, my skin becomes excessively dry especially around the nose and chin. Moreover, the dark spots reappear and are even worse, followed by the pimples. Is this normal? Or is it just my skin or the product? Additionally, this product is also from Pakistan, but for some reason or the other, there is not much on the net that talks about it
I'm using La Soul skincare product range from Korea. How do i know my beauty set got mercury contain or not? Any simple test to reveal it?
Prisca: There are home test kits available for about $30 US, or you could have an analysis done at an independent laboratory. See the following site for an extensive list of skin whitening products that contain mercury. http://whiterskin.info/mercury-is-a-dangerous-skin-lightening-ingredient/#Listcreams
What about paimei seeweed cream. Is it safe or dangerous?
hi,i bought a new cream name Hazeline.r u known about this cream?is that cream contains mercury? and also use at night kim whiting Pearl cream,only 2 days.plz, is kim contain any harmful camical?
Hi I been using White gold anti marks cream. Does it contain mercury. Should I discontinue use. Thanks to advise Stephanie
Hi I have been using Glytone skin clarifying/bleaching 4%hydroquinone prescribed by my dermatologist; does this have mercury in it? Thank you