APH 2000, 58, 199-211:

Analytical survey of hydroquinone in skin lightening cosmetics available on the Belgian market.

L. Goeyens, M.O. Masse, M. Borremans, J.M. Feroumont and M. Viaene

Keywords: Hydroquinone, analytical survey, skin lightening cosmetics

The objective of the current study was to check the conformity with the "Cosmetic" European Directive and derived Belgian  legislation of imported skin lightening cosmetics, seized by the Customs' services, and impoted as well as Belgian manufactured ones, sampled by the Food Inspection Service.  Analyses were performed according to the high pressure liquid chromatography method, published in the Directive 95/32/EC and recently adapted in the own laboratory.  The method involves one single isocratic run analysis of hydroquinone and the derived ethers.

Skin lightening cosmetics with hydroquinone concentrations exceeding the compulsory norm of 2% are frequently available on the Belgian market.  Analysis results gathered since 1985 evidence that >25% of the preparations examined had a concentration which was significantly higher than 2%, with maximal values as high as ~ 7 %.  Only bleaching milks were well in compliance with the legislation; creams and gels, on the contrary, were often in infringement.  The highest values were observed in 1998 and 1999; the majority of the Belgian manufacture was in accordance with the directive.

The outcome of the present study illustrates a general trend rather than a representative ratio of "illegal" products, since the sampling was mainly designed to intercept "suspect" preparations.  Nevertheless, the authors are confident that the demand for these products is elevated and that a pragmatical control is the better tool to reduce the commercialization of such "illegal" preparations.  Moreover, other non regulated skin lightening compounds are presently available on the market too.