Mercury in Skin-Lightening Products

Mercury in Skin-Lightening Products

From time immemorial, the first and foremost beauty standard in most countries is to have fair skin. However, in today’s world, this standard of beauty is slowly changing as many people frown upon the belief that you can only be beautiful with light skin.

Nevertheless, fair skin is still fixated in the minds of many Malaysians as an essential trait to look attractive. Due to this reason, there are countless skin-lightening products that offer the promise of fair skin in a short period of time. If you’re one of those people who uses skin-lightening products, we may have some horrible news for you. Skin lightening products that are unbranded or have no known source are likely to contain mercury which is highly detrimental.

Read about mercury poisoning below and steps to follow in order to avoid products that contain mercury.



Why is Mercury Poisoning from Beauty Products So Scary?  



Many skin-lightening agents you see today are research proven effective, but not many are safe and effective at the same time (like L-ascorbic acid and many we discussed in our previous post). Mercury, a heavy metal, is one of those effective but unsafe ingredients. It’s fast and reactive in whitening the skin with antiseptic property as bonus, but is extremely harmful to the skin and the health of your body system.

There are two types of mercury in general – organic and inorganic. The most common exposure to organic mercury (methylmercury) actually comes from contaminated fish (especially tuna, mackerel, swordfish etc.). The mercury in cosmetics on the other hand mostly exist in its inorganic form. Even so, bear in mind that both forms of mercury still bring severe health consequences.

Due to its prompt whitening results, many disgraceful brands like putting mercury in their products despite its harmfulness. Unfortunately, this is what consumers are trained to expect by brands’ advertisements when they shop for a whitening product. They want to see instant lightening results in days, or better, overnight. The mysterious world of chemistry absolutely has chemicals that offer such results like mercury, but their side effects are not what you wish to pay for!



Mercury in skin-lightening products can get easily absorbed and accumulated in the body and can result in permanent kidney, liver and brain damage. That being said, keep in mind that adults are not the only ones that can be affected by this. According to the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) toxicologist Mike Bolger, Ph.D., “Children can get mercury in their bodies from breathing in mercury vapours 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 so”.

Aside from that, the mercury contained in skin-lightening cleansers and soaps will eventually be discharged down the drain. Once this happens, the mercury enters the environment and joins the food-chain as the highly toxic methylmercury in fish. Foetuses which are exposed to methylmercury from their pregnant mothers can suffer from neurodevelopmental deficits when they are born.

Take note that you do not have to go as far as to accidentally consume a cosmetic product that contains mercury to actually have mercury poisoning. Even with external use of the product, you can easily experience the internal consequences of mercury. In addition to that, externally using products with mercury will likely result in irritating skin rashes, scarring, discolorations and even damage the skin’s natural immunity to bacterial and fungal infections.


How do you Stay Away from Products with Mercury?



  • Always check the list of ingredients. Report to the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau (BPFK) when you see products that list “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury” among their ingredients.


  • Never buy cosmetic products from unknown sources that come with no complete list of ingredients.


  • There are some terrible brands however, that create a fraud list of ingredients that looks fine, hiding detrimental ingredients like mercury behind words. You’ve probably also seen countless unpopular products/brands in forums, Facebook posts, WeChat groups from your friends, magazines, and brochures with flashy and exaggerated advertisements. By all means, shut down the false belief that “this product sounds so great with many before-and-after pictures, I should give it a try.” NO, ignore these traps. If the product is as fantastic as it claims, it should be famous by now. Buy only legitimate brands/products from proper channels. Trustworthy brands always send their products for tests, guaranteeing that the products are free from heavy metal contamination.


If there is really one safe miracle product that tones your skin to your desired colour or completely makes your dark spots disappear within days, everyone on this planet would know it by now. Unfortunately, there is no such product. All brilliantly formulated skin-lightening products take several months to produce noticeable results. Remember to always be realistic when it comes to skin care, so you never waste money on buying products that cause more harm than good :)

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