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Officials to test BB cream to ally consumers' concerns

An official at the Department of Health (DOH) said public health offices have gathered samples of blemish balm cream, commonly known as BB cream, for examination following a media report that some of the products being sold in Taiwan stores have been found to have contained fluorescent dyes.

Some consumers complained that their skin turned blue, and glowed under dimmed lights at night clubs or pubs, making them look like Japanese geishas with heavy makeup or the characters from the movie “Avatar.”

Chang Chi-jui, section chief of the Medical Devices and Cosmetics Division at the Food and Drug Administration under the DOH, said the product samples collected yesterday morning will undergo close examination to determine if they contain optical brightener.

The product that has been highlighted is the IPKN (Independent Professional Korea New Yorker) BB cream from South Korea, where the product takes fourth place in terms of market share.

The Cosmed chain store selling cosmetics and medicines in Taiwan started offering the product in January. But many consumers have bought the product via the Internet.

Separate tests by two inspection agencies and a university professor showed traces of optical brightener.

However, the importing company of the IPKN BB cream said their products have passed the examination of SGS with negative test results for fluorescent dyes.

Chang said no conclusion has been reached concerning whether fluorescent dyes may cause cancer. No nation has prohibited the use of such chemicals in cosmetics, he said.

But the labs of the DOH will carry out tests to allay consumers' concern and find the truth, Chang said.

He said the supplier did not specify that the product contains the chemical substance when it completed applications to enter the local market.

But the importer will be fined up to NT$100,000, and products will be removed from store shelves for violating the labeling regulations with a discrepancy between product and label, if fluorescent dyes are found in the products, he said.

Some toxicologists at leading hospitals and chemistry professors said fluorescent dyes could cause allergy or even cancer, or harm organs like the liver and kidney, when toxic substances are released from the product.

Chang said the DOH will gather relevant information for discussion by a panel of cosmetics experts to determine whether to ban the use of the products.

BB cream started off as a soothing treatment balm, which dermatologists and surgeons used on patients who underwent laser skin operations. Suppliers said the product represents a recent breakthrough in combining skin care and makeup.

Many women in Taiwan have joined the fad after some Korean actresses began to promote the product for sponsors.

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