FDA warns of toxic skin whiteners
How far would you go to achieve a fair and radiant skin?
It appears thousands of Filipinos are willing to take potential health risks on banned beauty products simply because they offer celebrity-like glowing skin and are cheap at that.
Take, for instance, skin-whitening and beauty product Goree, which remains popular among Filipino consumers despite findings that it contains high levels of mercury, thanks or no thanks to its affordable price of P150 and hyped efficacy on social media.
Notwithstanding warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against the use of Goree, Ruvilma Entero, who is working overseas, and her friends continued to patronize the product.
“My friend told me it was effective because she also uses Goree. I learned that it has high levels of mercury, but I just ignored it and continued to use [the product],’’ she told the Inquirer in an interview.
Besides, she added, it would be a waste to throw away her stock of Goree products, which are unregistered with the FDA and sold online.
Sherilyn Marvilla, a restaurant employee, heard of Goree in February this year and became convinced of its efficacy after trying it to treat her “severe acne” problem.
She claimed her face started to clear up “after only a week of use.”
Goree users naturally have a lighter skin tone because mercury prevents the development of melanin, which is responsible for one’s fair or dark skin tone, according to FDA Director General Nela Charade Puno.
But Puno warned that the chronic use of cosmetics with toxic mercury levels “reduces the skin’s normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections.”
Apart from skin and kidney damage, she said Goree users could also experience anxiety, depression or psychosis, and peripheral neuropathy arising from damage to nerves as side effects.
If the user is pregnant, her baby runs the risk of suffering from neurodevelopment deficiencies, she warned.
In October last year, the FDA issued a warning against the sale and use of Goree products after these were found to contain toxic mercury levels beyond the limit set by the agency.
Despite the warning, the product continues to be sold and distributed in the country, mainly through online shopping sites or Facebook groups.
The FDA recently asked online shopping sites, such as Lazada and OLX, to delist and ban Goree and other beauty products that were unregistered with the agency because they posed hazards to consumers.
Still, unscrupulous individuals try to smuggle the products into the country. Last month, the Bureau of Customs flagged 12 “balikbayan” boxes from Abu Dhabi stuffed with 6,500 Goree beauty products worth some P8 million and misdeclared as household ware.
Punishable by law
The Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009 imposes a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of as much as P5 million on those who import, sell and distribute products that do not have the proper authorization from the FDA.
Some users and distributors are unperturbed by the law’s stiff penalties given that Goree products offer a cheap alternative to beauty treatments that cost a fortune.
“Would you still go to [a famous dermatologist] if you could already buy yourself a cheap whitening and beauty product that is supported by thousands of users? If it’s FDA-approved, are we even sure that we would become beautiful?” said a Goree user and distributor, who asked to be identified only as Marie.
Rather than risk their health on mercury-laden products, consumers should be more “accepting of their natural skin complexion,” said the green group Ecowaste Coalition. —With a report from Kristel Limpot
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