London cosmetic shops fined £168,000 for selling illegal cosmetics

Figures published by London Trading Standards this week showed that 15 cosmetic businesses across the capital were fined a total of £168,579 in 2016 for dealing in unsafe cosmetic products.

The majority of the prosecutions concerned the supply skin lightening products containing dangerous and prohibited levels of hydroquinone, mercury or corticosteroids. In addition labelling breaches and lack of traceability was also an issue.

Safety regulations prohibit these ingredients in cosmetics, however thousands of products containing them had been found and seized in a co-ordinated campaign by London Trading Standards.

The prolonged use of such products can result in a host of health problems from skin thinning and discoloration to organ damage and even cancer in the long run.

A product called Grace Duo contained 18% of the bleaching agent hydroquinone. This is believed to be the highest amount ever found by trading standards in such products. Another soap product called Faiza Beauty Cream contained 0.54% of toxic Mercury.

Very high levels of hydroquinone were detected in Grace Duo

Very high levels of hydroquinone were detected in Grace Duo

Faiza Beauty Cream was found to contain Mercury

Faiza Beauty Cream was found to contain Mercury

 

 

 

 

 

 

The results were achieved by five London boroughs who prosecuted a total of 17 individual Directors along with their 15 companies. The average penalty was £11,239.

Illegal sales don’t just occur on the high street though. Research conducted for London Trading Standards Regional Intelligence Service has identified at least 15 online sellers of prohibited skin lightening products using ebay. Work is now being done to locate and tackle these sellers.

Officers in Waltham Forest recently seized over 3,000 products from one such seller and an investigation is ongoing.

Company bosses who sell banned cosmetic products can be fined up to £20,000 per offence and sent to prison for up to one year.

Steve Playle, a spokesperson for London Trading Standards said:

“Last year saw some great outcomes as a result of our co-ordinated campaign against illegal cosmetics and some defendants even had suspended prison sentences imposed. These penalties should make shop owners tempted to ignore safety rules think twice before putting profit over the health and safety of their customers.”

“London Trading Standards  have a duty to enforce product safety rules but ever shrinking officer numbers and reduced budgets makes it an ever more challenging job – particular with competing priorities such rogue traders and doorstep crime, fake goods and underage sales issues. Despite these difficulties our teams remain determined to tackle the issues putting Londoners at risk”.

“Moving forward in 2017 we will be checking more online sellers to ensure such damaging products are not being made available.”

Councillor Simon Blackburn, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“Beauty routines shouldn’t come with the risk of ruining your looks forever. Cosmetic products such as skin creams should be safe to use but banned lotions containing toxic formulas could seriously damage your health, and even kill you, so they should be avoided at all costs.”

Residents have a right to expect that high street stores will only sell safe and reputable products. Consumers should always check the ingredients of their skin creams and never use a product containing hydroquinone. If the product doesn’t display the ingredients at all, then consumers are also advised not to use it.”

“Councils have been targeting rogue retailers selling these banned creams and the large fines these businesses have received as a result of this important work by London Trading Standards teams should deter others from selling these dangerous products.”

“Anyone who has purchased a cream they think could be banned should stop using it immediately and report it to their local Trading Standards team. It is vital that people report any concerns, so that trading standards can take action to prevent anyone being harmed or scarred for life.”

Anyone with information about consumer crime can report it anonymously via the London Trading Standards reporting tool.

  • Read more about London Trading Standards campaign against illegal skin lighteners here
  • A table of the collated prosecution results in 2016 is shown below
2016 results of cosmetic products safety prosecutions by London Trading Standards
Local Authority Number of Shops / companies Number of Directors / owners Total number of Defendants Total fines and costs imposed (£)
Barking & Dagenham 4 4 8 50,403
Enfield 5 6 11 35,627
Hackney 2 2 4 26,500
Newham 1 1 2 12,097
Southwark 3 4 7 43,952
TOTALS 15 17 32 £ 168,579