'Magic water' facial solution causes skin peeling and chemical burns

Cosmetic products, Adulterated health products, Cosmetic products , General safety

Dull skin, acne, hair loss, cellulite... for every perceived beauty problem, there is a wide variety of products that will promise you quick, miraculous solutions. Whether these products will actually deliver the promised results or whether they are safe for use is uncertain.

Many of these cosmetic products are available for sale online, from local or overseas websites, and are often recommended in online reviews. It is worth noting, however, that these online reviews are difficult to verify and may not be written or posted by genuine consumers.

Well-meaning friends or relatives may also recommend products to you, but what has worked well for them may not work in the same way for you. Health conditions vary from person to person, and non-medical professionals who are unaware of your medical history will not be able to advise you on which products are suitable or safe for you to use. For example, you may have a known sensitivity towards certain skincare ingredients, and your friend recommending you to try a certain product may not know about it.

All in all, it is better to exercise caution when it comes to cosmetic products. Promises of miraculous results or convincing online reviews may tempt you into trying a product, but by the time you find out that your body reacts adversely to the product, it may be too late.

Woman suffers chemical burns from unlabelled product

A visit to a beauty parlour in Orchard Road took an unfortunate turn for a female consumer in her 20s, when she purchased two bottles of an unlabelled facial solution that was supposed to brighten up her skin. After two to three days of daily application, the consumer suffered chemical burns and skin peeling. Her skin turned red and itchy, and required treatment by a skin specialist.

The beautician who sold her the product had acquired the facial solution 'RDL HYDROQUINONE TRETINOIN Babyface Solution 3' from an online platform for use in her beauty parlour, and also poured it into unlabelled brown glass bottles for resale to her customers as “magic water”.

Tests done by HSA confirmed that the facial solution contained hydroquinone and tretinoin. These are potent medicinal ingredients used for the treatment of skin conditions, which should only be prescribed by a doctor and used under medical supervision. The consumer was unaware of these potent ingredients as the glass bottles were not labelled.

How to safely use cosmetic products

Cosmetic products (such as skincare products, toothpastes, shampoos, make-up and perfumes) are intended for external use on the body.

While they are considered to be of lower risk than other health products as they are not consumed by mouth, the ingredients in cosmetic products may cause adverse reactions in some individuals. The most common issue linked with the use of cosmetic products is skin sensitivity or allergy to their ingredients.

As a consumer, you should exercise care and discretion when using cosmetic products:

  • Consider the source of the products. Always buy your cosmetic products from reliable or established outlets.
  • Beware of miraculous claims. Such claims should be viewed with caution, as they are not backed by scientific evidence or clinical studies. Such products may also contain undeclared potent medicinal ingredients which can cause serious side effects.
  • “Endorsed by HSA" or "Approved by HSA” claims are misleading. Cosmetic products do not require approval from HSA before being sold or marketed in Singapore.
  • Read the label before purchase. Check for ingredients that you may be allergic or sensitive to. Do not purchase products which do not have a proper label with important information, such as product ingredients and instructions on how to use the product.
  • If it’s a new product, test the product before use. Try the product on a small area of skin, usually behind your ear or on the inside of your forearm. If there is no reaction after 24 hours, it is most likely safe for you to use.
  • Maintain hygiene levels. Wash your hands before using cosmetic products so as not to transfer bacteria from your hands to your face. Keep your make-up brushes and sponges clean. Do not share make-up as it could cause cross-contamination of germs and bacteria.
  • Follow instructions for use and storage. Do not use cosmetics for uses other than its intended one. For example, do not use a lip pencil as eyeliner as it could contain ingredients that may irritate your eyes. Store cosmetics according to instructions on the label as improper storage may cause the product to deteriorate. 

You can help us combat adulterated, counterfeit and substandard health products. Report any suspicious sale or advertising of medicines, cosmetics and health products to HSA through e-mail or phone at 6866 3485.