The creams contained mercury, hydroquinone, and steroids. Each jar cost about 70 US cents to make and sells for US$4 each -- a potentially 400-500% profit for the sellers of such creams on social media and elsewhere. Huge profits can explain why these harmful creams are advertised and sold aggressively online -- they offer a windfall for sellers, and the easy money makes it easier to turn a blind eye to the damage the creams would do to anyone who buys and uses them.

Authorities have seized unregistered skin whitening creams worth over 500,000 baht (US$16,700) from four factories during raids in four provinces.

Officers from the Consumer Protection Police Division and Food and Drug Administration raided factories in Chachoengsao, Sa Kaeo, Chon Buri and Ayutthaya provinces following social media advertisements that the “Cambodian cream with red cover” could whiten skin within seven days no matter how dark the skin was.

The producers of the creams were arrested and charged with violating the Cosmetic Act for illegally making and selling cosmetic products without permission. The offences carry a jail term of up to six months and/or a fine of up to 50,000 baht.

The products had no FDA labels and other required permits.

An initial examination found that the creams contained banned substances such as mercury, hydroquinone, retinoic acid and steroids.

While the production cost was 20 baht (70 US cents) a jar, it was sold for 120 baht (US$4). The factories had the capacity to make 500 jars a day.

Extracts from a Bangkok Post article (original). Published 4 February 2021.