Mercury is a common but dangerous ingredient found in skin lightening creams and soaps. Beauty standards promoted by media, advertising and marketing reinforce the bias that lighter skin tone is more desirable than
darker skin tone. Skin lightening creams and soaps are commonly used in many African, Asian and Caribbean
nations. They are also used among dark-skinned populations in Europe and North America. Mercury salts inhibit the formation of melanin, resulting in a lighter skin tone. The Minamata Convention on Mercury establishes a limit of 1 mg/kg (1 ppm) for skin lightening products, yet many cosmetic products contain mercury levels higher than that amount to increase whitening effect. Despite having been banned in many countries, mercury-containing products are often easily obtainable.
Eliminate Mercury Based Skincare Products
Mercury can be eliminated from skin lightening products by working with health and environmental ministries and
raising public awareness about the dangers to health from mercury and other hazardous chemicals in skin
lightening products. To stop the manufacture, import and export of skin lightening products in line with the
Minamata Convention, regulatory actions by governments are needed including training of customs agents as
well as major media and advocacy campaigns.