Thousands of Japanese customers suffered severe depigmentation after using skin-whitening products by Kanebo Cosmetics Inc.
The cosmetics giant said they have received 15,192 complaints in Japan, with a third reporting “serious” discoloration after trying on 54 products containing the whitening chemical “Rhododenol”.
Users of the products were left with white blotches on the skin. Some severe cases resulted in several blotches or a single patch of discoloration five centimeters (two inches) or more in diameter, Kanebo said in a press release.
A Japanese woman in her 50s who had been using Kanebo products for three years said she noticed blisters on her face, neck and hands, itchiness, swelling, and white splotches on her skin ringed in red, according to the Consumer Affairs Agency.
More than 70 people abroad, mostly from Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Thailand, had reported a similar reaction, a spokeswoman said. There had been no complaints from mainland China.
The company has said it will pay medical costs for customers left with uneven skin coloring, which in some cases continued even after they stopped using the products.
In July, Kanebo was forced to pull 4.36 million products from store shelves across the globe, including Britain, which contained a substance called 4HPB or “Rhododenol”.
A clinic had previously alerted Kanebo about skin damages caused by the skin-whitening products but the cosmetics maker failed to report the cases to the government until the end of June before recalling the products.
Skin whiteners are extremely popular among Asian women. Demand for skin lightening products is expected to grow in other parts of Asia, such as India and China, at 13% a year, according to Global Industry Analysts Inc.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: MIKI Yoshihito/Flickr