Keep your family safe by loving your natural skin; skin-lightening products contain dangerous chemicals

July 30, 2021
Hands using skin-lightening product

It isn't widely known, but skin lightening products are very harmful. For example, they contain dangerous chemicals including mercury that cause serious health impacts. These products are a direct result of colorism and racism.

Why do skin lightening products even exist?

Skin lightening products are sold under the belief that lighter skin is beautiful.

Did you know that many skin lightening products contain dangerous chemicals?

The products work by including dangerous ingredients that reduce the production of pigmentation in your skin. Many skin lightening products contain dangerous chemicals such as mercury, hydroquinone and steroids. The amounts of these harmful ingredients are usually thousands of times past the legal limit and illegal to sell in the United States.

These ingredients can cause skin damage and affect your nervous system, kidneys, etc. If you are using these products you may notice symptoms such as a rash, swelling in your limbs, tingling sensations, shaking, weight loss, fatigue, anxiety, depression and memory loss.

How does mercury exposure occur?

You may get exposed to mercury directly by applying the dangerous products to your skin or even just by breathing them in after you open the container. You can also indirectly expose your baby if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and using the harmful products.

How do I keep my family safe?

The most important thing is to check the labels of your products. Mercury can also be listed as “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurous” or “mercurio.” If the label does not list ingredients or is in a language that you cannot read, do not use the product. If the label says to avoid contact with jewelry, do not use the product.

What should I do if I encounter these products?

Stop using the products immediately. If you stop using them, your body can get rid of the mercury over time.

Do not throw them away. They could enter the environment through water or land and continue to poison people.

Bring them to a Hennepin County hazardous waste site. There you can safely dispose of them for free.

Questions about mercury testing?

If you are concerned about mercury exposure from skin lightening products, you may get urine mercury testing through your health care provider. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommends a single spot urine test.

If you have any additional questions about doing the urine test or what test results mean, contact Jessica from MDH at 651-201-3610. Interpreters will be provided upon request.

For questions about mercury home testing, email For questions about doing a urine test or what results mean, call Jessica from MDH at 651-201-3610.

For more safety tips, resources and information, visit the City website.