In 2013 a scandal of cataclysmic proportions hit the company KANEBO in Japan. As early as 2011 the first reports of leukoderma were being reported in consumers using Rhododenol containing skin-brightening cosmetics. This condition became known as RD-induced leukoderma, which resembles vitiligo like symptoms characterized by the appearance of irregular white blotches, or inconsistent de-pigmentation of the skin. It wasn’t until July 4th 2013 that KANEBO announced an official recall of its 56 product references sold not only in Japan but across most of Asia.

. The revealing facts :

In Japanese commercial history and culture, Kanebo represents a highly respected company which was first founded in 1887. Kanebo entry into the cosmetics market dates back as early as 1937, and although later bought out by the Japanese giant Kao in 2006, Kanebo has continued developing cosmetic products in skincare, make-up, frangrances and haircare. KANEBO brands include SENSAI, CREL or Molton Brown which are a mix between “conselling brands” recommended by beauty consultants and “self-service brands” sold freely without any counselling.

When Yuki Izumoto a 44-year-old Japanese housewife developed ugly white patches on her neck, hands and face her dermatologist had no answers for her. Yuki was embarrassed to show people her dotted hands, and the spots weren’t going away. Her doctor told her “it was a kind of disease, but the cause is unknown,”. “I used the products to become beautiful, but I was tainted forever by it,” said Yuki. What soon became clear was that Yuki was not alone, thousands of other women in Asia has also developed white blotches on their skin as a result of the use of popular whitening products.

As a result in 2013 Kanebo Cosmetics Inc. and its affiliates Lissage Ltd. and E’quipe, Ltd. Initiated a voluntary recall of brightening products from 7 of its Skin Whitening ranges Kanebo, Suisai, Twany, Impress IC, Lissage, E’quipe, Suqqi. The scale of the problem and product withdrawal was unprecedented. It applied to the Japanese markets but also across all Asian markets.

The reason for the withdrawal was that these products contained the quasi-drug ingredient rhododenol (4-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-2-butanol (4HPB)) a derivative of the raspberry ketone targeted for which KANEBO obtained approval in 2008 from the Japanese health ministry to use this ingredient in its skin-lightening/whitening cosmetics. This approval was granted in spite of a scientific paper published in 1992 by professor Yoshiharu Fukuda of Yamaguchi University of the development of leukoderma in workers at a chemical factory handing raspberry ketone, the raw material used for making rhododenol. That warning had been brought to the attention of the Japanese health and welfare ministry’s pharmaceutical affairs and food sanitation council in 2007, one year before the KANEBO approval.

The mechanism by which the cutaneous depigmentation is caused by rhododenol-containing cosmetics was originally considered to be a competitive inhibition of tyrosinase by rhododenol. However, skin biopsy samples taken from depigmented lesions of affected subjects showed fewer or no melanocytes compared with normal skin and 96% of leukoderma lesions were found to occur at or close to the site of rhododenol application. On the other hand, rhododenol did not have cytotoxic effects on keratinocytes and fibroblasts. These data strongly suggested that rhododenol has cytotoxic effects that are direct and specific to melanocytes behaving very much the same way as hydroquinone in targeting pigmentation.

It is important to note that hydroquinone itself is actually forbidden for use in cosmetics in many countries worldwide including the EU and Japan due to its cytoxic, reprotoxic and carcinogenic properties.

. A scandal that the Japanese general public cannot forget :

Several subsequent legal inquiries revealed that Japanese cosmetics giant KANEBO was well-aware as early as 2011 of numerous complaints from customers and warning signals from physicians having noticed the direct correlation between the use of the KANEBO incriminated products and the white blotches on patients’ skins. However, the company didn’t react immediately, its scientific unit claiming that the white patches were caused by customers’ pre-existing skin diseases. It is troubling to note that the company dragged its feet and waited until July 4th 2013, two years to announce an official recall of the products concerned.

The KANEBO skin-whitening scandal led to drastic financial and reputational losses for the company far more so than if they had dealt with the crisis responsibly and earlier. The Japanese general public strongly reproached KANEBO for not having recalled the problematic products earlier and more specifically, for not having taken all the necessary precautions and action right from the beginning when the first leukoderma cases were identified ; if it had it might have been able to prevent the suffering of thousands of its customers.

The CEO Masumi Natsusaka made a public apology in Japan media : a significant move in Japanese culture, and the company itself set up a compensation program to cover all medical costs incurred by KANEBO consumers who were impacted by the company’s faulty products and pledged to change its corporate culture and committed to improving its safety procedures before bringing a product to market

According to KANEBO sources as of May 2018 19,593 people have been confirmed with vitiligo like symptoms. Sixty percent of those have accepted financial settlement agreements, while the remaining forty percent of customers will live with permanent irreversible damage to their skin.

. Nunii Laboratoire’s uniq white system as a viable solution :

Lessons must be learned from the KANEBO scandal and that of the immense repercussions for that the intensive use of Hydroquione or similar acting substances for skin whitening which continue to this day to inflict irreversible damage on many patients skin worldwide.

It is for this reason that since its origins corporate social responsibility has been a corner stone of Nunii Laboratoire’s corporate culture and this ethos is at the heart of all new product development. NUNII’s Uniq White System treatment uses ingredients and compounds which have a clinical safety record for over a decade, as well as having been fully tested in terms of their potential toxicity in compliance not only with French and EU regulations but also with the OECD regulations and international standards to ensure optimum safety for patients. All known controversial ingredients, such as hydroquinone, Kojic acid, Azelaic acid and other irritating ingredients have been excluded from the Nunii product formulations.

In addition, the forms and concentrations of the ingredients in the Nunii products never exceed leading expert recommendations, especially when it comes to tyrosinase inhibitors such as Glabridin or Alpha Arbutin. The Uniq White Expert Pigment corrector depigmenting complex does not induce any form of leukoderma or permanent skin depigmentation. As an additional precautionary measure it is applied during night time, which prevents the treated skin form being exposed to harmful UV rays, and avoids any potential chemical alterations of the molecules when exposed to UV rays during daytime as occurred in the case of the rhododenol ingredient used in the KANEBO’s lightening products.

The lukoderma KANEBO scandal clearly shows, that contrary to widely held belief major players are capable of conveniently ignoring “inconvenient” information. More importantly that the development of safe acting skin lightening formulations are not as simple or straight forward as one might imagine, that it requires a high level of rigor and responsibility.

The UNIQ-WHITE® patented Expert Pigment corrector uses a complex of ingredients to target multiple levels of pigmentation production much earlier on in the melanogenic pathway. This treatment approach allows for a faster targeted action without causing irritation or unwanted side effects. The UNIQ-WHITE® treatment protocol is much shorter and less aggressive than most other professional treatment protocols currently on the market today.

All of this explains why more and more professionals in the field of dermatology and cosmetic surgery are entrusting the UNIQ-WHITE®SYSTEM as their first line of treatment when dealing with difficult skin hyperpigmentation problems.