Brent residents are being warned to be careful when buying cosmetics, as figures published by London Trading Standards this week show that 15 cosmetic businesses across the capital were heavily fined in 2016 for dealing in unsafe products.
Some of the products contained enough harmful chemical to cause organ damage, Trading Standards officials said.
15 London businesses and 17 individual company directors were fined a total of £168,579 in a coordinated campaign that saw London Trading Standards officers find and seize "hundreds of thousands" of the products in a co-ordinated campaign.
The majority of the prosecutions concerned the supply of skin lightening products containing a cocktail of dangerous chemicals. Using these kind of illegal products for a prolonged period of time can result in a host of health problems; from skin thinning and discoloration to organ damage and even cancer.
One of the products, called Grace Duo, contained 18% of the bleaching agent hydroquinone, which Trading Standards said was thought to be the highest amount ever found in these kind of cosmetic products. Another soap product called Faiza Beauty Cream contained 0.54 per cent of toxic mercury.
Illegal sales don't just occur on the high street though. Research conducted for London Trading Standards Regional Intelligence Service has identified at least 15 online sellers of prohibited skin lightening products using Ebay. Work is now being done to locate and tackle these sellers.
Steve Playle, a spokesperson for London Trading Standards said:
"Last year saw some great outcomes as a result of our co-ordinated campaign against illegal cosmetics and some defendants even had suspended prison sentences imposed. These penalties should make shop owners tempted to ignore safety rules think twice before putting profit over the health and safety of their customers."
Cllr Tom Miller, Brent Council Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, added:
"I'm really pleased to see that Trading Standards teams across London are working hard to stamp out the sale of these illegal, and quite frankly life threatening cosmetic products.
"Consumers have a right to expect that retailers will only sell safe and reputable products and businesses have a responsibility to make sure that each product they sell meets all the legal and safety conditions required by UK law.
"Our Trading Standards Team will continue to come down hard on these rogue retailers and ask people to report any concerns, so that Trading Standards can take action to prevent anyone being harmed or scarred for life."
Anyone with information about consumer crime can report it anonymously via the London Trading Standards reporting tool.