How to identify and avoid Counterfeit Skin Care Products -FEATURED

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Some skin-care products contain hazardous Mercury and Hydroquinone; Courtesy Photo

By Mary Asujo

On the streets or offices, we are witnessing women with different skin complexions. It’s not a surprise that cosmetics and beauty industry is currently one of the most lucrative in Uganda. We are also witnessing a trend where a number of business people are rushing to satisfy the ever-growing demand for skin-care products and women are always being encouraged to try new products. But, be aware; counterfeits and harmful products are everywhere.

Counterfeit cosmetics are “fake” products or knock-off goods of another product. Individuals duplicate labels of genuine products and stick them on their packaging in order to make a kill. These labels looks identical to the authentic label, with only the slightest change being made in the spellings or a few colors here and there. These products are actually costly especially downtown and after purchasing them we feel good about it. Little do we know that we are slowly killing ourselves!

Sadly, most of the products on the market today are not good for us. They are of poor quality and they have additives which are harmful to our health. According to Dr Emmanuel Bukalu of Memorial Clinic in Butto, Bweyogerere, counterfeit products are posing a serious health effect on the people especially women.

How do you guard against these fake products?

Dr Bukalu says, it’s not bad to buy skin-care products and it can work wonders but you have to buy from a person who understands your skin type and what it needs. In a bid to use proper skin care products, we have to realize that different products go for different skin types. Skin types which range from dry, normal and oily skins. Those with good skin, appreciate it and they never go for products anyhow since they experience less skin problems. He advises those with good skins to always ensure they see a specialist to get advice on products and proper practices that will continue maintaining their skin and stay away from fake products.

However, some people have dry skin that is sensitive and come with a lot of allergies and effects to some skin care products. With dry skins, the pores are usually not visible and usually it’s dull or rough. This happens because this person lacks adequate water in the body. Oily skin is shiny, has big pores and pimples. Dry skin works well with oil free products. He warns the public against purchasing and mixing creams.

Some people have a habit of buying cosmetics and mixing up medications from pharmacies to form creams. The mixture may be good but skin-care specialists or dermatologists rarely prescribe such because if they are used for months, the user may end up with a damaged skin.

When buying these products in town, it’s helpful to first see the brand before paying your money. It may be hard to differentiate between genuine and fake skin-care products but this is something you have to embrace. Take a look at the product label and its packaging because its one way to identify its fake. Look for loose ends in the labeling

Use common sense

When you go to a shop, take your time and look around and if your gut feeling is whispering something, pay attention to it. Some products have even expired or taken long on the shelves or could have been exposed to high temperatures. One easy way to tell a product is not good is through its smell. If you sense an unfamiliar smell in case you are used to the product, walk out as fast as you can. If you already bought it, just be candid and throw it in a bin to save your skin.

Some people use advertisers to sell the products fast. Be careful when they promise quick results in a short time and they are cheap. Go slow on them. Those who sell fake products tend to sell it cheap to make quick profits. They never respect the guidelines and chances are that they don’t conform to the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) quality standard. The best option is to buy your skin care products from a person you trust not just any shop.

Dangers of fake products

Dr Bakalu advises that mixed creams contain a number of ingredients, which are expected to be used only when prescribed by a specialist. Hydroquinone is a harmful additive in creams. Hydroquinone is a skin lightening compound that is not commonly prescribed. He says hydroquinone is prescribed to some patients with dark skin. Creams with Hydroquinone are only used in dark areas or scars for a short time. When used for a long time, it can ruin your life because it causes a buildup of a compound that leads to dark patches on the face and is not pleasant to look at it.

Mercury is another deadly compound that is used to make mixed creams. It’s also a carcinogen. Dr Bukalu adds that while these fake products are being used to mix creams and cosmetics, they are never listed among the ingredients. They are secretive about the conditions in which they were manufactured. During the manufacturing process a lot of things go wrong; the hygiene, proper sanitation is not a priority and in some cases some bacteria may find their way into the product.

Mercury is highly toxic. When applied topically, mercury is associated with the development of skin irritation, rashes, and discoloration, writes Joshua Zeichner, Director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “If it’s absorbed, [it] can even cause mercury poisoning with toxicity to the kidneys and nervous system.”

Indeed, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that the primary adverse effect of mercury in skin-care products is kidney damage. And, in addition to what Zeichner noted, it can also cause anxiety, depression, and even psychosis. Long-term use of cosmetics that contain mercury can cause damage to the eyes, lungs, digestive, nervous and immune systems. So yeah, it can be pretty toxic stuff.

Others contain paint thinner. This is visible in lipsticks for women and contains lead and mercury. Paint thinner can lead to irritation to the eye sight and other body parts. Always think twice before you buy that lipstick.

Finally, engage UNBS. Some alerts on counterfeit products including those that are banned are published on their online portal.

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