Do you know what ingredients are used in locally made fairness creams?

Published: March 6, 2016

Mercury can help in the overall improvement of complexion, but is equally capable of generating severe diseases if overused. A cream containing excess quantity of mercury can be fatal for a baby, if s/he happens to accidentally swallow it.

On numerous occasions in the past, heavy fines have been imposed on Johnson & Johnson and other prominent pharmaceutical companies for various offences such as false labelling, poor manufacturing practices, Medicare fraud, and kickbacks. This was possible because consumer protection laws are strongly implemented around the world.

Unfortunately, here, in Pakistan, we have no such laws; everyone is manufacturing and selling products without the risk of facing any trouble. It’s in our society that edible items and medical products are manufactured without any respect for the consumers’ health.

Let’s look at how these businesses exploit people. Our society denies proper education or vocational training to girls, particularly those belonging to the middle and lower strata of society. Parents and relatives reiterate that their lives are only meant for marriage.

What happens next?

Women divert their attention to getting married.

Our culture perceives skin tone to be an incredibly perplexing matter, as it’s stereotypically believed that girls with wheatish or dark pigmented skin will be unsuccessful in securing a suitable husband. To adapt to the cultural definition of beauty, girls become obsessed with the need to manipulate their skin and choose to depend on low quality skin whitening creams without realising, or rather not caring about, the effects a certain cream can have on them. There is also no mention of these creams having been approved by the Pakistan Standard Quality Control Authority (PSQCA).

Among the abundance of locally manufactured skin whitening creams – there are many to choose from –currently, one of the most popular ones is Faiza beauty cream. Others in this category are Gipsy Amazing cream, Action-C, Face Fresh and Golden Pearl. These products either do not specify certain ingredients or vaguely mention them; they have mentioned the ingredients, but the quantity of each item is missing.

For example, Kojjic acid is listed as an ingredient on many creams, but its quantity is never mentioned. Mercury is also used in some of the skin whitening products. Perhaps the manufacturers are not aware of the after-effects themselves. Mercury can help in the overall improvement of complexion, but is equally capable of generating severe diseases if overused. A cream containing excess quantity of mercury can be fatal for a baby, if s/he happens to accidentally swallow it.

In Pakistan, the medical facilities available are unsatisfactory. Around 350,000 to 400,000 children die due to common ailments like diarrhoea every year before reaching their fifth birthday. If we are unable to provide medical treatment for curable ailments like diarrhoea, how will we even begin to provide treatment to those who may suffer from skin cancer as a result of these substandard creams?

I think it’s about time our girls raise their heads and seek fulfilment in education, instead of being subjected to cultural ideologies of beauty and empowerment. Furthermore, effective consumer laws must be established where consumer pleas are heard and matters are settled in months, instead of being languished for decades.

I hope the government empowers institutions like PSQCA and Consumer Association of Pakistan (CAP) and encourages similar bodies to operate efficiently so they can maintain a check and balance over manufacturers and prevent them from burdening consumers with their harmful products.

Khurram Zia Khan

Khurram Zia Khan

The writer is the media manager of Asiatic Public Relations and tweets @KhurramZiaKhan (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Zainab Batool Rizvi

    I wish the author had added actual test results about the contents of these creams and studies about their harmful effects. In this way the article would be more credible. Still I am glad someone is pointing out our obsession with fair complexion. Recommend

  • Queen

    Thank you for highlighting an important but neglected issue. I hope a day comes when we will start looking beyond the color of the skin to the actual personality which lies within. One can only hope the concerned authorities will take action on such substandard products.Recommend

  • The Truth Bro

    The color complex would go away when india, pakistan and bangladesh become first world.
    Color complex is also found among black people. White color is associated with superiority because of money.
    Arabs (saudi, qatar, uae) generally are not into color complex, so much so that they treat white people working in their countries as second class, below them.
    The trend is reversing because dark skinned countries are becoming more financially stable by every passing day.Recommend

  • Hiba Moeen

    I doubt if anyone has conducted tests so far but it’s unfortunate that companies exploit women especially in developing countries and make beauty synonymous with fair skin. Recommend

  • Afreen Jaffery

    I don’t understand when our girls will cease submitting to the society’s will and stop applying handful of these corrosive creams. They need to realize that at the end of the day its the inner confidence of a lady that beams in her outer beauty and supersedes whatever effects these temporary whiteners can create. I hope with your meticulously researched article our society’s absurd notion to chase fair skin and its obsession for it, decreases to some extent.Recommend

  • ZS Sam Xejnep

    The BBC has mentioned about such harmful Pakistani creams and all such creams got banned in the UK.Recommend