If you use skin-whitening creams, especially those advertised to have been imported from Pakistan, you might reconsider your choice.
Because, the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) has found the presence of excessive mercury and hydroquinone in eight beauty products of that country.
Having the harmful chemicals at least 200 times higher than the permissible level, these brands can develop numerous skin diseases if one applies them for a long time, warned the government institution.
The BSTI collected 13 samples of beauty creams from markets and tested them at their laboratory.
The national testing institution found eight of them having a higher level of harmful chemicals and subsequently banned their import, distribution, marketing and sales in Bangladesh.
The eight brands are — Goree Whitening Cream, Chandni Whitening Cream, New Face Whitening Cream, Due Cream, Golden Pearl Cream, Faiza Cream, Noor Cream and White Pearl Plus Whitening Cream.
According to the BSTI standard, skincare products can have the highest of 1ppm mercury and 5ppm hydroquinone.
But these eight creams have much higher mercury presence ranging from 193ppm to 948ppm. The hydroquinone presence in those banned products ranges between 434ppm to 1980ppm.
The BSTI requested customers to not buy those skin-whitening creams any longer.
BSTI Deputy Director Reazul Haque told The Business Standard that they did not issue any import certificate for those products.
"As none came to us for the import permission, there is no chance to take legal steps against a specific individual or company. But, we will take actions if anyone found selling those," added the deputy director.
Preferring anonymity, a source at the BSTI said people bring in those creams under personal-use declaration while some consignments come through illegal channels.
Local cosmetics manufacturers said hydroquinone and mercury are de-pigmenting agents used to lighten areas of darkened skin. The chemicals are used in skin-brightening products to remove wrinkles, freckles, acne or other blemishes.
"Hydroquinone can be used at a certain level of 2-4 ppm (parts per million). Skin can get damaged if any skincare product contains more than that," said Dr Akram Ullah Sikdar, former chairman of the Dermatology and Venereology Department of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
"There is no scope to use mercury for manufacturing skincare products as it is a heavy metal," Dr Akram added.