Trading Standards Warn Public Over Harmful Illegal Products

Danielle Lowe
By Danielle Lowe

Danielle Lowe is the Marketing Manager for, ( the UK’s largest aesthetic information website. 

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has issued a warning to the public about illegal and potentially dangerous cosmetic products sold online. they have launched a ‘#CostofBeauty’ campaign which raises awareness about the safety issues associated.

With more people opting to save money by doing their cosmetic treatments at home, CTSI is spotlighting the serious - even life-altering - effects that can happen when opting for illegal products, or when products are not administered by a trained professional.

We know that professional salon services can be very pricey. So, of course, it can be incredibly tempting to take matters into your own hands. However, attempting any of these treatments at home with unregulated, potentially counterfeit products is simply not worth the risk to your health and safety.

SKIN : Skin-Lightening Sensibility

People use skin lightening products for various complex social and personal reasons. However, many of these products are illegal in the UK - and have been found to contain some very harmful substances.

Furthermore, illegal skin creams have not been safety-tested, there are no guarantees that they were made in sanitary conditions and they offer no assurances that they are safe to use.

Know what you’re buying ...

Some skin-lightening creams are legal, but many are banned because of their harmful ingredients. These dangerous banned ingredients include hydroquinone, mercury and licensed medicines like corticosteroids. Creams containing these substances are illegal in the UK and Europe for safety reasons.

Know what you’re buying

Christine Heemskerk, Lead Officer for Product Safety at CTSI, said: “Cosmetic products should attract compliments, not complications. These dangerous goods can leave the public with serious life-long side effects."

“Trading Standards will remove these products from sale and take action where needed, but online sellers need to take responsibility for the goods available for sale on their websites. Turning a blind eye is not an option when dealing with people’s health. Online marketplaces can and must do better.”

Dr Emma Meredith, Director-General of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA), the trade association representing manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care products in the UK, said: “The safety of our customers is the number one priority of the cosmetics industry and the UK has strict laws dedicated to the safety of cosmetic products and their ingredients. All cosmetic products legally placed on the UK market, even via online, must abide by these robust rules. CTPA would advise purchasing your cosmetic products from a reputable retail source and ensure they are correctly labelled with a full ingredients list. If a product is labelled ‘for professional use only’, please only trust a professional to apply it for you, so you can get the results you want, safely.”

What can you do to STAY SAFE?

  • NEVER use skin lightening products without discussing them with your dermatologist or doctor first - they will advise a safe course of action that's right for you.
  • NEVER use illegal skin lightening products purchased from shops or over the internet.
  • NEVER use skin lightening products on children!
  • ALWAYS read the label - cosmetic products for sale in the UK must display the manufacturer or importer’s name and address, and their ingredients.
Downloadable resources:

More information about how to identify illegal skin lightening products can be found at the following link from the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA):


TEETH: Nothing to Smile About!

Illegal teeth whitening kits for home use can cause burns and damage to gums. Make sure you know what you are buying - and who you are buying from. Always do your research, and always check the label. All teeth whitening kits for sale in the UK must display a UK-based manufacturer or importer’s details. 

However, the best teeth whitening results will be achieved by visiting a registered dentist or dental hygienist working to a dentist’s prescription - with access to safe and effective teeth whitening products.

Know your limits...

Teeth whitening products administered by dentists, have a legal limit of 6% hydrogen peroxide. Whereas teeth whiteners bought from online marketplaces have been found to contain illegal and dangerous levels of hydrogen peroxide. Some products found for sale online have been found to contain up to 300 times the safe, legal limit of hydrogen peroxide.

The chair of British Dental Association’s health and science committee, Mick Armstrong, said: “At best, people may be wasting their money buying over-the-counter and online products to whiten teeth. Home whitening kits are likely to take longer and be less effective than treatment from the dentist."

“While hydrogen peroxide, as used in dental practices, is the gold standard for whitening teeth, the lack of clarity over chemicals used in over-the counter and online products means you could be gambling with your teeth."

“Some online products have been found to contain dangerous chemicals, including toxic or banned substances that can severely burn gums, or irreparably damage teeth."

“Dentists are trained to consider a patient’s wider health and detect problems, such as gum disease, that impact on the suitability of an individual to have their teeth whitened. They also know what whitening products are effective to use, and safe for teeth and gums.”

Downloadable resources:

More information about how tooth whitening kits and products work, and the rules for legal products, can be found at the following link from the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA), the association representing cosmetics and personal care companies:


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