Criminals are exploiting a soaring market in skin lightening creams by making inferior illegal products that are being sold by rogue retailers, online and at car boot sales and market stalls, often at low prices. Many of the toxic creams contain the bleaching agent hydroquinone – described as the biological equivalent of paint stripper – while others can include potentially deadly levels of mercury. But the illegal products typically list their often harmful ingredients incorrectly, putting consumers at risk.
Hydroquinone can remove the top layer of skin, increasing the risk of skin cancer and causing fatal liver and kidney damage. Mercury can cause similar life-threatening health problems.
Amid funding pressures and demand for services, councils have been forced to reduce trading standards budgets by around half since 2010. The LGA said councils need a long-term, sustainable funding settlement in next year’s Spending Review so they can adequately provide the vital trading standards services that keep residents safe.
Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Councils have been targeting rogue retailers selling these banned creams and people should report any concerns so that town halls can take action to prevent anyone from buying these lotions, potentially ruining their looks forever.”