By Chito Chavez
The proliferation of hazard-laced cosmetics on Thursday drew deep concern from environmental group EcoWaste Coalition prompting it to ask concerned government agencies for swift action against the menace.
“Accept, love, and be proud of your natural skin color,” EcoWaste Coalition said.
The group also exhorted the public, specifically women and girls, to embrace and take pride in their natural Filipino skin tone stressing that cosmetics containing banned skin whitening agents will have ill effects on their health in the long run.
EcoWaste Coalition’s renewed pitch for “brown is beautiful” campaign came on the heels of successive advisories issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning consumers against the purchase and use of cosmetics containing mercury, hydroquinone and/or tretinoin, which are not allowed to be part of a cosmetic product as per Annex II Part 1 of the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.
Additionally, the FDA has warned the public about the side effects of using injectable lightening agents such as glutathione, which can have toxic effects on the liver, kidneys, and the nervous system.
“We need not poison our bodies and the environment with mercury and other harmful pigment inhibiting agents in our desire to have a lighter skin complexion,” said Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Instead of altering your natural skin color, why not accept, love and be proud of what you have?” he asked, emphasizing that “there is no shame in brown or black skin.”
If whitening one’s skin is really desired, Dizon urged those concerned to better seek the advice of licensed dermatologists on how to do it.
To date, the FDA has prohibited the sale of over 135 mercury-containing skin whitening creams, which are mostly imported from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Pakistan.
The FDA has likewise banned several skincare products such as facial astringent, toner, and cream containing hydroquinone and/or tretinoin mostly manufactured locally.
“Adverse health effects of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening creams and soaps include: kidney damage, skin rashes, discoloration and scarring, reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, anxiety, depression, psychosis and peripheral neuropathy,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
FDA added that “hydroquinone is no longer allowed to be part of a cosmetic product and is classified as a drug product in the Philippines because of its multiple serious adverse effects (i.e. sensitivity to light, skin redness and permanent skin discoloration) when used indiscriminately.”
As per the FDA, “products containing hydroquinone and/or tretinoin (retinoic acid) shall be classified as a home remedy, over-the-counter, or prescription drug depending on the amount present as per DOH Administrative Order No. 13, series of 1999.”
The US-based Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Cancer has identified “cancer, organ system toxicity and respiratory tract irritation” among the health concerns associated with the use of hydroquinone in skin lighteners, facial and skin cleansers, facial moisturizers, hair conditioners, and fingernail coating products.