Consumer protection in Hong Kong

Don’t take products on face value: expensive moisturisers not always the best, says Hong Kong Consumer Council

Just seven of the 40 products tested received a satisfactory mark from the city watchdog

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2017, 4:29pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2017, 8:55pm

Splashing the cash on expensive moisturising face masks may not mean better results than the cheaper alternatives, the city’s consumer watchdog has found.

And testers had to report one product to customs workers, for exceeding safe levels of a synthetic preservative.

The Consumer Council tested 40 cosmetic masks costing between HK$3.10 and HK$108.30 per sheet, all of which claimed to hydrate and brighten skin.

Only seven scored four out of five for efficacy and customer feedback in the council’s tests.

Five of the seven top-scoring models cost under HK$20 per sheet. They were Utena, Mandom Barrier Repair, Leaders, Ettusais, and Kracie Hadabisei.

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Those brands stood in stark contrast to the most expensive product in the test, from Lancome, which scored three points but cost HK$108.30 per sheet.

The council considered scores of three or lower unsatisfactory – meaning they gave little to no improvement in skin moisture.

Consumer Council research and testing committee chairman Professor Wong Kam-fai concluded that “product prices do not necessarily correlate to quality”.

The council also warned consumers to be wary of allergens in moisturising masks, with three masks found to contain the synthetic preservative methylisothiazolinone (MIT). One of those – made by Besilke – contained 0.013 per cent of MIT, exceeding the allowable limit of 0.01 per cent.

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The council reported the MIT levels in the Besilke mask, which was also the cheapest in the test, to the Customs and Excise Department.

The council said MIT could cause an allergic reaction depending on the user’s tolerance, and urged users to test products before jumping into full use.

“Take the sheet and put the liquid on your cheek and see if you have a rash or irritating effect,” Wong said.

“Also, there are products that sell masks [per piece]. Try one first and get used to it before you go for volume consumption.”

Aside from MIT, the council found other preservatives, including paraben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben, in the moisturising products. All were within the limits set by the Safety and Technical Standards for Cosmetics China.

But the Consumer Council said while the preservatives may be within safe limits, some people may be highly sensitive to them, and urged people to study ingredient labels before buying.