Watsons China recalled its own brand of a whitening facial mask across the mainland following a claim that it caused a woman's death.
The woman, 42, from Fuzhou , Fujian province, saw her whole body turn red and her lips turn black after using Watsons' White Pearl facial mask on Tuesday. She died in a hospital, fjsen.com, a key news portal in Fujian, reported.
In a statement posted on its official Sina Weibo account, Watsons China confirmed that the woman had used the product. More than 900,000 boxes of three masks had been sold since 2010.
Watsons China, the largest health and beauty chain on the mainland, said it had not received any complaints about allergic reactions related to the mask.
But the company decided on Tuesday to temporarily pull the product from its stores, including its online shops at Taobao.com, and has removed it from its official website.
The product met national quality standards and passed a toxicological risk assessment conducted by a third-party testing agency in Europe, the company said. 'There is no evidence to show any connection between the death of the customer and this product,' it said.
The Fuzhou Food and Drug Administration said it had received a report about the mask, and said the case was still under investigation.
The mask, produced in Guangdong, contains substances including arbutin and hydrolysed pearl solution, which are both used to lighten the skin tone.
Sun Jianfang, a professor of dermatology at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, said he was unaware of any similar case in medical literature.
Sun said the autopsy should reveal if the victim suffered from another medical condition that had not been diagnosed.
A spokeswoman for Watsons in Hong Kong said the White Pearl facial mask was not sold in the city, and that there was no evidence so far linking the woman's death to the product.
Still, she said all products related to the mask had been taken off the shelves in China and would be tested.
Additional reporting by Jennifer Ngo