Background: There is an urgent need to address the safety problems caused by the use of skin lightening cosmetics. Evidence suggests that some of them may contain heavy metals. Objectives: We conducted a systematic review of global legal regulations regarding the permissible level of mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium in cosmetic products, with particular emphasis on skin lightening preparations. Methods: The systematic search of documents was a two-stage process. First, official websites of 17 regional organizations and subsequently regulations for countries with a population over 100 million were searched. Results: Fifteen legislative acts, encompassing more than 67·2% of the global population were reviewed. Regulations were identified for 44/59 high income countries, 16/55 upper middle income countries, 9/45 lower income countries, 0/34 low income countries. The median adult literacy rate was 91·4% and 64·2% in countries with and without regulations, respectively. The use of mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium has been banned in 67, 67, 65, and 65 out of 69 countries, respectively. Conclusions: While regulations exist in most of the high income countries, in low income countries there is a lack of similar standards. In most countries for which these legal regulations have been identified, restrictions on the permissible level of heavy metals are strict. There is a need for enforcement of existing rules, and rigorous assessment of the effectiveness of these regulations.
- Heavy metals
- Legislation and jurisprudence
- Skin lightening preparations
- Skin pigmentation
- Vulnerable populations