CONSUMER watchdogs in West Yorkshire have warned of a potentially dangerous face cream.
Trading Standards officers today alerted potential users and sellers of skin lightening creams and lotions which may contain a banned substance called hydroquinone.
Following a tip-off, a number of cosmetic products have been seized and removed from sale in the county to protect the public from the damaging effects of the substance.
The lightening creams have claims such as "gives a smooth extra lightening complexion" and "gradually fades out unwanted freckles, age spots, uneven skin tone and brown pigmentation marks on the skin."
The products contain hydroquinone in quantities of 1.9% and 2%.
Cosmetics are governed by the Cosmetic Product Safety Regulations which prohibit some ingredients and put restrictions on others to ensure that the product is safe.
Potentially unsafe products can reach consumers by means of illegal imports. In some instances, some items may still be on sale after their best-before date has expired and the contents have deteriorated.
As some products can have a lifespan of several years, it is possible that some may still be on sale long after a particular substance has been banned.
Dr Duncan Campbell, Public Analyst for West Yorkshire, said: "Hydroquinone is a bleaching agent which is widely used in the photographic industry.
"It has been used in cosmetic products such as skin lightening creams and hair dyeing in the past.
"It can cause dermatitis if left in contact with the skin and damage to the cornea of the eye.
"Since the year 2000 its use has been severely restricted in the UK and it can only legally be used at concentrations of up to 0.3% in hair dyeing products.
He added: "Skin lightening creams and soaps illegally imported from the Ivory Coast have been found to contain as much as 4% of hydroquinone and could cause severe dermatitis or permanent damage if any came into contact with the eye."