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70% Models of Facial Exfoliating and Peeling Products Found Containing Allergens, Some 20% Provide No Ingredient Information & Expiry Date

  • 2018.09.19

For the beauty-conscious, besides daily facial cleaning, facial exfoliating and peeling products may also be used for deep cleansing to rid their face of dead skin, black head and blemish.  A Consumer Council survey on 60 models of rinse-off type exfoliating/scrubs/peeling products has found 42 models containing potentially allergic ingredients, including MIT and CMIT/MIT preservatives, fragrance and fragrance allergens.  Furthermore, the product labelling of some models was far from satisfactory – 15 models were without detailed ingredient information and 10 provided no such vital information as expiry date.  Manufacturers are urged to enhance product information transparency so that consumers can fully understand the potential risk of the products.  Consumers should also be wary of the usage instruction to avoid incorrect application resulting in skin injury.

Included in the survey were 18 scrubs (priced $44 - $540), 16 masks/exfoliating masks ($139 - $670), 5 peeling sets ($640 - $1,800), 11 exfoliating powders ($70 - $608), and 10 microbeads products ($30 - $220) with the aim of comparing the ingredients and usage.  On the basis of product type per ml/g, the average price of microbeads products ($0.25 - $3.13) was comparatively lower at $1.15 per gram or milliliter; the most costly were peeling products ($5.33 to $25.33) at $14.83 per gram or milliliter.

Nearly half of the models labelled to contain fragrance allergens

In the survey, ingredient information and product claims of the 60 models were scrutinized.  7 models were shown to contain MIT or CMIT/MIT preservatives of a relatively higher risk of causing skin allergy.  Fragrance and fragrance allergens were found on the labels of 35 and 29 models respectively, with 6 models containing an established contact allergen, BMHCA (a fragrance ingredient).  People with skin sensitive to these substances should therefore read carefully the ingredient lists to reduce the risk of allergic reactions after use.

Further, 9 models were shown to contain alcohol in their ingredients, with 3 of them topping high on the ingredient lists (2nd or 3rd positions) indicating higher amount in the products.  When applying such products extra care should be taken to avoid the vapour emitted that may cause irritation to eyes.  Consumers should also beware that prolonged skin contact with alcohol of high concentration, or frequent usage may cause skin dryness.   

 4 models labelled to contain plastic microbeads

Facial exfoliating products work mainly through either physical or chemical or a combination of both.  22 models used physical exfoliants – by rubbing abrasives to clean the surface skin and pores.  Commonly used abrasives include: silica/hydrated silica, seed powder, shell powder, solum diatomeae/diatomaceous earth, sea salt, sucrose and plastic microbeads.

The use of plastic microbeads in consumer products has become an increasing concern of the society because of its potential harmful impact on marine environment and ecology in recent years.  A number of countries have plans to ban the use of plastic microbeads with other ingredient substitutes. At least 4 models in the survey were found to contain polyethylene microbeads.  Consumers choosing such products should give due consideration to their potential impact on the environment.

Another 14 models work mainly with chemical ingredients, for instance, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) or salicylic acid (BHAs) or enzyme ingredients, to soften and remove the defoliant cells on skin surface; 7 models were found with 2 types of the chemical ingredients.  AHAs are able to remove the uppermost top-layer skin cells and in theory can help improve uneven skin tone, dullness, rough texture and facial fine lines.  BHAs can deeply cleanse skin and pores to improve acne problems.  Consumers should note that some AHAs (such as lactic acid and citric acid) can also act as pH adjusters in product formulation and if they are low on ingredient lists they may not be intended for facial exfoliating purposes.

In fact, the 5 types of facial defoliating products vary in their application, consumers should read carefully the usage instructions; improper use may risk higher chance of skin irritation.  For example, in the case of some peeling sets, the skin will come in contact with chemicals of high alkalinity or acidity, and/or heat, causing strong irritation to skin, that might lead to effect of rash, stinging and burning sensation. Consumers are advised to conduct patch test in a small local area before full application to ascertain the skin will not react in serious discomfort.  Further, most samples suggest using 1 to 3 times a week, some even require pre-wash of the face before use.  Consumers should beware and follow usage instructions.

Room for improvement in labelling information                                                                   

On labelling information, products from countries such as France and the US were generally better in the provision of comprehensive product information.  15 models (25%) were not labelled with detailed ingredient information in English – most of these products were from Japan.

In respect of expiry date, 10 models (16.7%) carried no such information whatsoever; in the rest of the 50 models, only 30 models offered such information and among them 4 provided also date of manufacture.   Another 18 models indicated both the expiry date and Period after Opening (PAO) while 20 others only PAO.

Manufacturers are urged to improve in disclosure of both the date of manufacture and expiry period on product labels so as to enable consumers to choose fresher products and to finish the use before expiry to avoid wastage. Regardless of any product used, over-exfoliation may cause damage to skin, reducing its natural hydration protection which may induce dryness and other skin problems.

When using facial exfoliating and peeling products, consumers should pay heed to the following:

  • If you are taking acne medicines or have recently received invasive beauty treatment, consult medical practitioner if it is suitable to use exfoliant or skin peeling products;
  • Avoid using different types of facial exfoliating products at the same time;
  • Beware of microbeads accidentally getting into eyes during use or rinsing;
  • Give your skin hydration care after use of these products, wear sunscreen for outdoor activities and avoid extended exposure to sunlight.

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