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Skin Whitener Still Plagues Kanebo

August 20, 2013

More than 7,000 consumer complaints

A skin whitener has become a black eye for Kanebo Cosmetics Inc. The company said more than 7,000 consumers have complained that its products cause dermatological blotches. The company recalled the product in July, but the number of cases continues to climb. Kanebo, a unit of Kao Corp., reported 7,266 women—a 27% increase from 10 days ago—with skin problems caused by the recalled products. Nearly 3,000 of those women had three or more white splotches on their skin, spots that were 2 inches or more in diameter, or white spots on their face. About a quarter of the affected women were recovering after they stopped using the product or received treatment, according to Kanebo. More than 10,000 people have reported symptoms.

On July 4, Kanebo recalled 4.36 million items containing a substance the company developed called 4HPB, or Rhododenol, which is used in 54 different products sold by the company in Asia and the UK. The recalled products comprise roughly $60 million in sales and include Japan's No.2 skin-whitening brand, Kanebo Blanchir.

Kanebo, which has pledged to cover all related medical expenses, said it has yet to calculate what the total impact will likely be in terms of fallen sales and compensation costs. A team of dermatologists is trying to figure out how the 4HPB substance might be causing the problems. Kanebo has ruled out contaminants and said that no changes have been made to the key ingredient.

A list of products that contain 4HPB can be found at

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