Skincare Alert: Esther Creams Have Been Found to Contain Mercury

Esther Creams, known for their skin-whitening skincare cosmetic products, has been in Singapore for…at least since Jan 1, 2012. They were available for purchase on online platforms and in certain retail stores. Until now.

Yesterday, the Health Science Authority of Singapore (HSA) released an official statement urging Singaporeans to stop using these two Esther Cream International skincare products: Melati UV – Whitening Vit E Cream, and Esther Bleaching cream (Cream A & B). The latter being their best seller. Tests conducted on these products found mercury content in their formulation.

The authorities have since seized the stock of both products from the wholesalers and their retailers.

Mercury in skin-lightening cosmetic products is extremely toxic, and is banned under the Health Products (Cosmetic Products – ASEAN Cosmetic Directive) Regulations. Mercury can cause rashes, skin irritation and skin blotchiness. Chronic exposure to high levels of mercury, that is absorbed through the skin, may affect kidneys and nervous system.

What is even more alarming is how little information is available about these creams, and its company. According to HSA, these two products did not list their ingredients on the packaging or the accompanying product leaflet. (This is the reason why I often remind readers to ‘Always read labels!’)

So, I decided to do my own little investigation.

After an extensive Google search and tapping around various social media networks, I struggled to pull  information about the company and its two products in question. Here’s what I found (and did not find):

    Warning Sign No. 1: Youtube marketing video for Esther Bleaching Cream (A) & (B)

      In this ‘homemade quality’ video, it specifically states ‘This cream is made from natural vegetable oils without mercury and hydroquinion‘, along with obvious grammatical errors. Nowhere does it give a list of ingredients or offer any information about their secret formula – apart from the obvious fact that it is a secret.

        Warning Sign No. 2: Facebook Fan Page for Esther Cream International

          On this Facebook fan page, there wasn’t much of anything beside 184 fans (likes). Who are these fans?

          The About section does not tell you anything useful or important either. In fact, the content is so vague that it will leave you knowing even less, and generally, more confused.

            Warning Sign No. 3: Appears to be Marketed and Sold by Individuals, not Corporations

              I found plenty of individuals online, particularly from the Indonesian community, who are selling this product. In Singapore, stocks could be found in small beauty shops in Geylang. Esther Bleaching cream (A) & (B) were sold at @S$32 with free postage on some online sites. Although since HSA announced its findings, most for this information has been deleted or brought down.

              According to reviews found on the internet, both of these Esther Cream products have left users with minor irritations, as well as, a tingling sensation on the skin upon application. For Esther Bleaching Cream (A) & (B), some users have mentioned that their skin begun to peel after using it.

              Despite Esther Cream International’s seemingly dubious setup, I managed to find individuals online who have endorsed these creams as a skin whitening remedy of great efficacy.

              Photo source:
              Photo source:

              It is amazing that despite the (lack of) information Esther Cream International provides on their products, it seems to be a healthy, thriving and profitable business that is widely-distributed by a close network of individuals.

              Some lessons we can take away from this case:

              • Read labels. Always look for the ingredients listing. If it is not listed, there is a reason.
              • Know the company. Where are they from? What is their philosophy? Who are the stakeholders? Who are its customers?
              • Don’t just go on marketing pamphlets and photos alone. Transparency is a sign of whether the company is being honest or not. If the company says its product formula is a secret, don’t take that as a good thing. What you don’t know can hurt you. 
              • Do your own research. If information is hard to find, there is a reason. 

              Esther Cream whitening creams (Melati UV – Whitening Vit E Cream, and Esther Bleaching cream A & B) may no longer be available in Singapore, but they are still available online and elsewhere.

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