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Department of Pharmaceutical Services, Ministry of Health, Brunei Darussalam
Did you know that we have been using cosmetic products ever since we were babies?
Cosmetic products cover a wide range of items that we use as part of
our personal care and grooming routine every day, including its use in
babies, male, female as well as the elderly.
A cosmetic product is defined as any preparation intended to be
placed on the skin, hair, nails, lips and external genital organs or the
oral area mainly to clean, perfume, change their appearance, protect or
keeping them in good condition as stipulated in the Medicines (Cosmetic
Products) Regulations, 2007.
In Brunei Darussalam, cosmetic products are regulated by the
Medicines (Cosmetic Products) Regulations, 2007 in line with the ASEAN
Cosmetic Directive (ACD).
The Brunei Darussalam Medicines Control Authority (BDMCA) through the
Director of Pharmaceutical Services, Ministry of Health is the
Authority for the implementation of the ACD in Brunei Darussalam.
Types of products regulated as cosmetic products
- Creams, emulsions, lotions, gels and oils for the skin (hands, face, feet, etc)
- Face masks (with the exception of chemicals peeling products)
- Make-up powders, after-bath powders, etc.
- Toilet soaps, deodorant soaps, etc.
- Perfumes, eau de toilette and eau de Cologne
- Bath and shower preparations
- Deodorants and anti-perspirants
- Hair care products (hair tints, bleaches, cleansing products i.e. shampoo, conditioning products, hairdressing products)
- Shaving products
- Make-up products and make-up removal products
- Products intended for application to lips
- Products for care of the teeth and mouth
- Products for nail care and make-up
- Products for external intimate hygiene
- Sunbathing, tanning products
- Skin-whitening products
- Anti-wrinkle products
(Please note that the above list is not exhaustive)
How To Choose A Safe Cosmetic Product?
As a general rule, when choosing a cosmetic product, always read the
label. It is important for consumers to observe the following
information on the product label (
BELOW: Photo A & B) to ensure the safe use of cosmetic products.
|Photo A: Read the information on a product when choosing a cosmetic product|
|Photo B: Understanding the label to ensure the safe use of cosmetic products|
- Information about Cosmetic Ingredients
Cosmetic ingredients may contain chemicals to help preserve the
product from spoilage, achieve the consistency of the formulation, or to
exert its intended purpose etc. The uses of these chemicals are
generally safe provided that they are formulated within the stipulated
concentrations and/or pH, and the cosmetic products are used according
to the directions.
Listed below are information on some of the ingredients that are being highlighted for its safety by consumers:
Phthalates are ingredients that are used in cosmetic products to
allow fragrances to last longer. They are also used as plasticisers in
nail polishes to provide resistance to chipping. The two phthalates most
commonly used are diethyl phthalate (DEP) and dimethyl phthalate (DMP).
However, there are currently three phthalates:dibutyl phthalate
(DBP), benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), and diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP)
which are prohibited for use in cosmetic products in ASEAN and Europe.
Parabens are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic products to
inhibit or prevent microbial and fungal growth. Its use within a
permitted concentration can extend the shelf-life of cosmetic products.
The use of preservatives in water-containing cosmetic products is
essential. Spoilage of the product due to ineffective or insufficient
preservative may lead to microbial contamination and may compromise its
safety for use.
Commonly used parabens include methylparaben, ethylparaben and
propylparaben. More than one paraben may be used in a cosmetic product,
or used in combination with other types of preservatives to provide
preservation against a broad range of microorganisms.
Recently, two parabens namely butylparaben and propylparaben and
their salts are no longer allowed to be used in leave-on products
intended for the nappy areas in children below three years of age.
Hence, preparations intended for use in the nappy areas should not
contain butylparaben and propylparaben.
In addition, five types of parabens have also been banned due to
safety issue for use in all types of cosmetic products namely
isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, phenylparaben, benzylparaben and
Talc is a naturally occurring mineral used in many cosmetic products,
from body powders, face powders to eye powders. Its functions include
absorbing moisture, preventing caking, making facial makeup opaque, or
improving the feel of a product. Cosmetic grade talc used in the
manufacturing of cosmetic products must be free from any harmful
substances such as asbestos, a known carcinogen.
Consumers should keep products containing talc away from the nose and mouth when used in children under three years of age.
Formaldehyde is used as a preservative andas nail hardeners in nail
polishes. Some cosmetic products such as shampoos and shower gels may
not be declared to contain formaldehyde. However, there is a possibility
of low levels of formaldehyde being detected in them due to the
presence of formaldehyde releasers such as imidazolidinyl urea,
1,3-Dimethylol-5,5-dimethylhydantoin (DMDM hydantoin), and diazolidinyl
Formaldehyde is regulated to be used as a preservative at a certain concentration to ensure its safety when used as directed.
Formaldehydes are prohibited in aerosol dispensers (sprays).
Para-phenylenediamine or p-phenylenediamine (PPD) is a hair colour
ingredient commonly used in permanent (oxidative) hair colorants,
especially in the darker shades.
It is permitted for use as a hair dye substance in oxidative hair dye
products, at a maximum concentration of two per cent at the point of
As PPD may cause allergy on some individuals, hair dye products
containing PPD are not intended for use on persons under the age of 16
and are advised to conduct a patch test before using the product. The
use of hair dyes are closely monitored by safety assessors for its
carcinogenic potential with frequent use.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate(SLS)
Sodium LaurethSulfate (SLS) is a surfactant used in cosmetic
products, such as shampoos, shower gels or toothpastes as a foaming
agent. It is also sometimes found in other cosmetic products like creams
SLS is allowed to be used in cosmetic products. There is currently no
evidence to show that SLS causes safety risk to consumers when used as
directed in cosmetic products.
Prohibited Substances In Cosmetic Products
In our region, whitening cosmetic products and anti-acne cosmetic
products are the most sought-after type of cosmetic products. These
types of cosmetic products are also under surveillance by the Ministry
of Health, where samples from the market are taken for testing for
adulterants. Listed below are some of the most common adulterants in
cosmetic products which are often used as a ‘silent ingredient’ and not
declared on the product label:
|Ochronosis, which is a blue-black permanent pigmentation on the skin from a prolonged used of products containing hydroquinone||Redness, dryness, itching and peeling similar to that of mild sunburn caused by tretinoin, found in anti-acne products|
May be found in skin whitening products. Products containing
hydroquinone usually have a yellowish tinge to its colour. Upon
application, it would cause stinging and burning sensations.
Prolonged use can lead to a condition called ochronosis, which is a
blue-black permanent pigmentation on the skin. Hydroquinone cannot be
applied to the skin (except the nail surface) and can only be used under
a physician’s care in the treatment of skin diseases.
Tretinoin is a retinoid and is the acid form of vitamin A. It may be
found in anti-acne products. Upon application, it may cause stinging and
warm feeling on the skin, and in normal use it produces some redness,
dryness, itching and peeling similar to that of mild sunburn.
Tretinoin is not to be used by pregnant women because it is harmful
to the unborn child. It can only be used under a physician’s care in the
treatment of acne and acute promyelocyticleukemia.
Often added in skin whitening products as adulterant.Steroids are
usually used to suppress an infection. For this reason, they are one of
the most common adulterant in cosmetic products intended to suppress
pimples/acne quickly. There are many types of steroids that may have
been added to cosmetic products for ‘added’ effectiveness such as
hydrocortisone, dexamethasone and clobetasol. These steroids have
varying potency and recommended duration of treatment. Unsupervised
application has the potential to cause contact dermatitis, striae
(stretch marks), uneven skin pigmentation and ‘superinfection’ (a more
severe infection during other infections).
cosmetic product containing mercury. Exposure to mercury can cause skin
rashes, uneven skin pigmentation, skin irritation,memory loss and
muscle weakness while high exposures may result in damage to the brain
and kidneys – PHOTOS: COURTESY OF MINISTRY OF HEALTH
Mercury is a potent ingredient and is readily absorbed through the
skin on topical application and tends to accumulate in the body. Mercury
may be found in skin whitening products. Exposure to mercury can cause
skin rashes, uneven skin pigmentation, skin irritation, memory loss and
muscle weakness while high exposures may result in damage to the brain
and kidneys. It is also extremely toxic to unborn children. Common
symptoms of mercury poisoning include peripheral neuropathy (presenting
as tingling sensation or itching, burning or pain), skin discoloration
(pink cheeks, fingertips and toes), swelling, and desquamation (shedding
What steps/precautions can I take before buying a cosmetic product?
Always read the instructions and warning information on the
label/insert before using a cosmetic product. Do not use cosmetic
products for other uses apart from their intended ones.
Apply cosmetic products with clean hands or an applicator. Applicator
should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water, and dried before use.
Use cosmetic products within their recommended shelf-life printed on
the product labels. Do not use cosmetic products when there is any
colour or odour changes or any other unusual appearance detected.
Check for the ingredients that you are allergic to. Try the product
on a small area of skin, usually behind your ear or on the inner forearm
before use. If there is no reaction after 24 hours, it should generally
be safe for use.
Do not buy cosmetic products from unfamiliar sources, such as unknown
Internet websites, social networks and be wary of products with
exaggerated claims. Only purchase products from reputable sources.
Do not be too quick to believe what you read in advertisements or
labels, even if the claims are “made by scientific experts” or “backed
by scientific research”. Sometimes, only partial findings from a
research or study are profiled, and this information may be too brief
for you to make an informed decision.
Do not apply cosmetic products to irritated or damaged skin.
Do not share cosmetic products as this could expose you to someone else’s bacteria.
Do not dilute cosmetic products with water or saliva when they dry
up. The moisture will encourage bacteria growth and contaminate your
What To Do In Case You Experience An Adverse Reaction When Using A Cosmetic Product?
If you develop an adverse reaction such as allergic reaction or skin irritation, itchiness, redness or swelling.
- stop using the product immediately;
- wash away the cosmetic product from the applied area of your skin;
- inform the importing company whose name and address appear on the label;
- see a doctor if the condition does not improve or worsens.
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