Consumer protection in Hong Kong

Allergens found in dozens of facial cosmetics sold in Hong Kong, consumer watchdog finds

Some 42 exfoliating and peeling products contained ingredients that could cause allergic reactions, according to study of 60 products

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2018, 9:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2018, 9:02am

Hong Kong’s consumer watchdog revealed on Tuesday that 42 facial exfoliating and peeling products sold in the city were found to have ingredients that could potentially cause allergic reactions.

The Consumer Council studied 60 items from different brands and reported that seven brands were shown to contain elements – MIT or CMIT/MIT preservatives – that could pose a “relatively higher risk” of causing skin allergies.

The labels on 29 brands also indicated that the products have fragrance allergens while six items contain an established contact allergen BMHCA, which is a fragrance ingredient.

“People with sensitive skin should carefully read the ingredients lists to reduce the risk of allergic reactions after use,” said Dr Karen Shum Hau-yan, the council’s research and testing committee chairwoman.

Popular products from big brands such as Aesop Purifying Facial Exfoliant Paste, Clinique Exfoliating Scrub and H2O+ Elements Restore the Glow Exfoliator were among the seven products that contained MIT or CMIT/MIT preservatives.

Aesop’s supplier told the Consumer Council that the new formula of its product does not use CMIT/MIT preservatives and the new item will be available in Hong Kong within six months.

The Post has contacted the other two brands for comment.

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The watchdog also pointed out that nine products were shown to contain alcohol. It cautioned that prolonged skin contact with alcohol of a high concentration or frequent use may cause skin dryness.

Over-exfoliation may also cause damage to the skin and reduce its natural hydration protection, and that may cause dryness and other skin problems, it added.

“When problems occur and you need to receive treatment gradually. It cannot be recovered during a short period of time, so the public should be careful,” the council’s chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han warned.

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“It’s important to read [the details] carefully about how to use it and trust your skin’s feelings.”

The council’s findings said 15 brands, or 25 per cent of the products studied, were not labelled with detailed ingredient information in English, with most of them coming from Japan. Meanwhile, 10 items carried no expiry date.

The council urged manufacturers to improve disclosure of both the production date and expiry period on labels, so that buyers could pick fresher products and finish using them before expiry.