Consumers are being warned to steer clear of skin lightening creams that can “act like paint stripper”.
The Local Government Association warns the products should be “avoided at all costs” after recent seizures by trading standards officers.
Many contained the bleaching agent hydroquinone – the creams can also contain mercury.
The British Skin Foundation said people should speak to a doctor if they had any concerns about their skin.
The LGA says the toxic products are being sold by rogue retailers, as well as online and at car boot sales and market stalls.
And they do not always spell out the correct levels of ingredients, putting consumers at risk.
Hydroquinone, described by the LGA as “the biological equivalent of paint stripper”, can remove the top layer of skin, increasing the risk