The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) has warned the public against the hazards of using some facial skin care whitening creams without consulting a physician, particularly products marketed on social media as these products could pose grave health hazards and permanent damage to the skin, including facial bleaching and occurrence of dark spots.

MOHAP tracks unauthorized promoters of skin care creams

H.E. Dr. Amin Hussain Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary of Public Health Policy and Licensing, MOHAP, said there is a growing demand among teenage girls to use skin whitening products which has led some social media influencers who have huge followers to promote creams that should be administered by medical prescription or in which chemicals should be used only after consulting with specialists. These influencers present their personal experiences in videos they publish to their followers and encourage them to do the same. He noted that such information dissemination whether done on good faith or not could lead to some manufacturing companies or local distributors to contract social influencers or ‘fashionistas’ to promote their products to increase sales, which has prompted the Ministry, particularly the Health Empowerment and Compliance Department, to put a system of monitoring the content of these social media accounts and form ateam to track some of the suspected accounts on social media.

Hazards associated with a misuse of the promoted products

Dr. Al Amiri cited the video of a GCC lady who showcased her skin whitening experience after mixing threecreams, the first one is Dermovate, a preparation that contains a cortisone derivative ‘Corticosteroid’ used to treat symptoms such as skin inflammation, itching, which occur in some skin diseases such as Psoriasis, some allergies and superficial dermatitis. This type of creams should be dispensed by a medical prescription and under the supervision of a specialist.

Corticosteroids has side effects which usually occur after prolonged use or high dose or lack of medical supervision such as skin numbness, skin atrophy ‘, burning, itching, skin stinging, acnes like pimples, hypopigmentation (change of the skin color), skin perspiration disorder, and secondary skin infections including bacterial, fungal, and viral and some skin lesions, which render the skin thin and easily bleed.

The second cream in the video is Differin Gel, itcontains Vitamin A and is a gentle exfoliator used to treat acne, and other skin conditions such as facial peeling, and protecting the skin from aging, and overexposure to sunlight. The cream could cause some adverse effects including dryness and allergy, and it must be applied at night time because it reacts with sunlight. it should be used under medical supervision and it could cause skin irritation on initial use.

The third skin care brand, Hi-Queen, is an unregistered product which contains 4 per cent of Hydroquinone, a widely-used chemical substance available in the form of cosmetics, particularly prescribed for skin whitening. Initially, users of hydroquinone creams may see whitening in their skin, however, when exposed to the sun, adverse effects will soon occur leading to the tanning of the skin and the occurrence of dark spots which leads to an extended use of the product and a higher risk of occurrence of the adverse drug reactions including dark spots, painful sensation and inflammation, as well as acne. Very long term use of these type of creams could lead to skin cancer, in addition to liver disorders resulting from the substance absorbed through the skin. Some European countries have banned the use of Hydroquinone due to its side effects and the risks associated with its misuse.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that Hydroquinone is a hazardous substance and could cause side effects leading to ochronosis, the accumulation of melanin pigments in some tissues such as joints and cartilages, apart from skin allergies in most cases. MOHAP has published a circular on the hazards of using Hydroquinone, and mandated the administration under specialist supervision,the product should not be mixed with other substances as this might lead to serious toxicity.

Facial whiteners should be administered under medical supervision

Dr. Al Amiri urged the public to dismiss misleading advertisements which promote some skin whitening creams without medical consultation unless the advertisement was approved by the Ministry of Health and Prevention and after having verified of the content and accuracy of the ad, highlighting that many ads on social media are incorrect, misleading and not medically proven and it is not licensed and issued by people who are not medical specialists. Such actions have significant negative impact on the health and safety of the consumer.

Internet hotbed for illicit cosmetics trade

The Assistant Undersecretary also noted that many of these products are typically sold online without prescription, and they are illegally marketed to the people. Furthermore, some of which are being marketed as a new and unknown medical and pharmacological innovation. As part of its efforts to ensure safety for everyone in the country, MOHAP discourages any unchecked use of these products or any other products before they are medically verified and approved.

UAE’s world-class hospitals and specialized healthcare facilities

Dr. Amin Al Amiri emphasized that the UAE has some of the finest and most prestigious hospitals and specialized healthcare facilities in the Middle East and the world with 135 public and private hospitals; 86 of them have international accreditation, apart from around 6,000 medical centers and specialized clinics. He urged ladies seeking skin whitening to approach only authorized healthcare facilities to benefit from medically-approved and trusted services that put their health and money to the best of their concern, particularly in the wake of advanced medical facilities.

Dr. Anwar Al Hamadi: Dermovateis a prescription only medicine for treating eczema and psoriasis, and should not be applied on the face

Dr. Anwar Al Hammadi, Head of Dermatology Society in the Emirates Medical Association, said: “The pull of social media, coupled with the growing interest of many people to apply cosmetics have led to a misuse among teenage girls following the advice of social media celebrities or the so-called ‘influencers or fashionistas’. This is irresponsible action where those influencers post their experiences using some cream preparations on their social accounts. Among the shocking preparations we came to notice in the video that was posted by a lady was her use of a facial skin whitener containing Dermovate cream which is the most powerful corticosteroid used in the market to treat cases of eczema and severe psoriasis.

Dr. Al Hammadi explained: “I would like to stress that Dermovate was by no means used for facial skin, nor has it ever been an over-the-counter drug; which means that it cannot be dispensed unless with a prescription from the dermatologist. Moreover, pharmacists are prohibited to dispense it without the doctor’s prescription as diagnosis should be provided for its application. The problem is

exacerbated, because this product cannot be used for the treatment of acne, which has other treatment pathways. The worst part is ‘influencers’ demonstrate to their followers their experiments and with a wide segment of followers ranging from children to teens,it becomes a wider medical issue when followers indiscriminately flock to pharmacies and buy these products to copy what these influencers did.”

He also stated that applying Dermovate cream to the face leads to skin scarring and atrophy, in addition to vitiligo-like bleaching and the protrusion of blood vessels, which when it occurs could lead to permanent damage in the skin. He added that these cases are an act of deception and misguidance including the video which featured the Hydroquinone cream for skin whitening. It can cause skin darkness when used in prolonged periods of time and could develop dark blemishes, this has been medically proven.

He further said: “I appeal to those influencers to avoid posting anything outside their specialty. In the same manner that makeup artists or fashion experts should only post the content related to their line of business, and avoid medical products. Such acts could be worse if some physicians themselves would post content beyond their specialties to get the attention of others which could cause confusion and extreme fascination and overuse of beauty products to lighten their skin. I urge the public, particularly the followers and fans of some influencers not to blindly yield to those influencers to avoid severe implications that we see in many dermatology clinics. I hope there would be a legislation to incriminate those who misuse medicines particularly when damage is sustained by children and teens.”

Misuse of creams lead to critical side effects

Dr. Hessa Ali Mubarak, Director of the Empowerment and Medical Compliance Department, stated that a lot of the traditional preparations and whitening creams sold without authorization are usually prepared with pharmacological compounds and creams that contain Hydroquinone and Corticosteroids, and Vitamin A products, which cause a compounded effect that exceeds the melanin to affect the overall cells and increase the likelihood of the emergence of the side effects of the Hydroquinone and Corticosteroids. It is important to know that such preparations have a high concentration of ‘sulfate’ compounds which in turn cause skin irritation, allergy, and contact eczema that counter the benefit of the medication. In addition, the overuse of this medication without follow-up with the supervising dermatologist might lead to the emergence of rare symptoms such as hyperpigmentation of the skin without the knowledge of patient, which is hard to treat by topical cortisone.

Precautions and dosage tapering

Dr. Mubarak advised that among the general precautions that should be taken upon usage of skin whitening treatment is to avoidsun exposure to avoid hyperpigmentation as well as not applying it close to the eye region, close to the wounds, or lesions. It should not be used after shaving to lower the side effects as much as possible. Neither should it be used during pregnancy nor during breastfeeding due to lack sufficient information about the likely side effects. It is advisable, when used for the first time, to apply sparingly to the skin for the entire day for two or three times to make sure that it does not cause any allergy before using it regularly. She emphasized that the medication should be tapered and reduced by degrees, particularly that the most of these medications are composed of cortisones, and gradual and slow reduction is advisable to avoid the adverse effects of the cortisone.

Contacting MOHAP on misleading medical information

MOHAP emphasized the importance of avoiding the distribution of any medical information not validated by the ministry of health or by the local health authorities, and requires members of the public to report to the ministry any misleading or suspicious advertisement through the numbers 80011111 or at the Ministry’s website via the portal ‘Tameny’; or to report to any government healthcare authority.


Source: Orient Planet PR & Marketing Communications