Skin-lightening Products

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Examples of skin-lightening products with mercury
Examples of skin-lightening products that contain mercury, hydroquinone or steroids. Image credit: Minnesota Department of Health

What you should know


Many skin-lightening products have been found to be contaminated with mercury, a substance that can cause serious health problems.

Used by both dark and light-skinned individuals, these products lighten skin tone, fade freckles or get rid of age spots. They are available in a broad range of stores in Minnesota, including those serving African, Asian, Middle Eastern and Latino communities.

People who use skin-lightening products with mercury can have higher mercury levels in their hair, blood and urine. Mercury can damage the kidneys, affect the nervous system or cause pain or rashes.

Women who are pregnant or of child-bearing age should avoid mercury exposure. Unborn babies, infants and children are very sensitive to mercury.

What you should do

1. Avoid products containing mercury.

Check the label for mercury (also known as “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurous” or “mercurio”). If the label lists one of these words or if it doesn’t list any ingredients, stop using the product immediately.

Examples of products containing mercury

2. If you were using a product with mercury, stop using it now.

Your body will naturally get rid of mercury over time.

3. Do not throw products with mercury in the trash.

It can be dangerous to people and the environment. Bring them to a household hazardous waste collection site for free.