The National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA), under the Ministry of Health (MOH), has cautioned the public against buying four cosmetic products which were found to contain scheduled poisons.

The MOH confirmed that the products from three companies were found to contain mercury, hydroquinone and tretinoin. These include Nuriz Shoppe UV Pearl Cream, Nuriz D’Solve, Aura Gorgeous Night Cream and NV Anti Blemish Toner 1.

Strict regulations of scheduled poisons

There are very detailed and strict guidelines to be adhered to when involving a broken mercury thermometer – in order to prevent mercury contamination, as exposure to mercury can damage kidneys and the nervous system. However, products tainted with mercury are commonly marketed for skin lightening and anti-ageing treatments such as for freckles, blemishes and wrinkles.

The hazard of mercury is not only limited to the person using the skin cream containing mercury, but also to others – especially children, as mercury can get into their bodies from breathing in the mercury vapours.

“Infants and children can ingest mercury when they touch the cosmetic products containing mercury or their parents who have used these products. It may also interfere with the development of the brain in unborn children and very young children.

Using products containing mercury can also cause skin rashes, irritation and other changes to the skin,” director-general of health Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said.

The companies and affected products are listed below:

Notification of these cosmetic products have been cancelled by the Senior Director of Pharmaceutical Services, MOH following the detection of scheduled poison. Source: Bernama
Notification of these cosmetic products have been cancelled by the Senior Director of Pharmaceutical Services, MOH following the detection of scheduled poison. Source: Bernama

“Products containing hydroquinone and tretinoin are classified as pharmaceutical products that need to be registered with the Drug Control Authority (DCA) and can only be used under the advice of healthcare professionals,” he added.

Similar to mercury, cosmetic products adulterated with hydroquinone are typically marketed for skin lightening, as well as, to treat blemishes and uneven skin tone, while those with tretinoin are commonly promoted for use in acne and to reduce wrinkles.

While the said affects are true, the unwanted effects that coincide, causes more harm than good.

“Hydroquinone can cause skin redness, discomfort, skin discolouration and hypersensitivity. It also inhibits the pigmentation process (depigmentation) which reduces the skin’s ability to be protected from harmful UV rays, thus, increasing the risk of skin cancer,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

The unsupervised usage of tretinoin can cause redness to the skin, discomfort, stinging, peeling and sensitivity to sunlight.

MOH warns against prohibited sales with steep punishments

Selling or distributing these cosmetic products is an offence under the Control of Drugs and Cosmetics Regulations 1984.

“Those found guilty of flouting this regulation can be fined up to a maximum of RM25,000 or a maximum jail term of three years or both, while second or subsequent offenders can be fined up to a maximum of RM50,000 or a maximum jail term of five years or both,” warns the MOH.

Companies, meanwhile, can be fined up to RM50,000 for the first offence and fined up to a maximum of RM100,000 for subsequent offences.

An updated list of beauty products containing scheduled poisons can be found on the NPRA website. Consumers are advised to stop using these products and seek further advice from healthcare professionals if experiencing any unpleasant effects. MIMS

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