Skip to main content

Spotty reaction prompts recall of popular Japanese Kanebo-brand skin whitener

By Pamela Boykoff and Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN
July 24, 2013 -- Updated 0832 GMT (1632 HKT)
Image supplied by Kanebo shows examples of the white blotches that have appeared on victims' skin.
Image supplied by Kanebo shows examples of the white blotches that have appeared on victims' skin.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Yuki Izumoto developed white patches on her neck, hands and face
  • Thousands of people complained of similar symptoms after using popular skin whitener
  • Japanese company Kanebo has recalled products with ingredient Rhododenol
  • Skin whitening is a near obsession for some women in many Asia countries

(CNN) -- When Yuki Izumoto developed ugly white patches on her neck, hands and face nearly a year ago, her dermatologist had no answers for her.

The 44-year-old Japanese housewife 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," she says.

Now it seems likely that she and thousands of others may have developed white blotches on their skin as a result of a popular whitening product from Japanese cosmetics brand Kanebo.

Izumoto says she used the product for several years.

Reports of such symptoms from thousands of customers have led Kanebo to initiate a voluntary recall of all of its products that contain the "quasi-drug ingredient" known as Rhododenol. In a statement, Kanebo said 6808 customers had complained of vitiligo -- the appearance of irregular white blotches, or inconsistent de-pigmentation of the skin -- as of July 19.

I used the products to become beautiful, but I was tainted by it.
Yuki Izumoto

Kanebo advises customers to stop using the skin products in question immediately and to contact a dermatologist.

The company has set up a task force with "the mission of taking full responsibility for the care of all customers who experience vitiligo-like symptoms following the use of the affected products, through to the stage of full recovery."

Skin whitening is a near obsession for some women in many Asia countries, with both local and Western brands selling a variety of products designed to evenly lighten skin tone.

Kanebo has sold nearly five million products containing the recalled ingredient across 11 Asian countries, including Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea. There have been very limited sales in the United Kingdom. The company plans to visit all customers who have complained of skin blotches.

Meanwhile, Izumoto says she has yet to receive a visit and is angry at the company for not being in touch sooner.

"I used the products to become beautiful, but I was tainted by it," she says. She believes her skin may never return to normal.

Saori Ibuki contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 2348 GMT (0748 HKT)
Tichleman 1
A makeup artist, writer and model who loves monkeys and struggles with demons.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Lionel Messi's ability is not in question -- but will the World Cup final allow him to emerge from another footballing legend's shadow?
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1029 GMT (1829 HKT)
Why are Iraqi politicians dragging their feet while ISIS militants fortify their foothold across the country?
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
An elephant, who was chained for 50 years, cries tears of joy after being freed in India. CNN's Sumnima Udas reports.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 0732 GMT (1532 HKT)
Beneath a dusty town in northeastern Pakistan, CNN explores a cold labyrinth of hidden tunnels that was once a safe haven for militants.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 2249 GMT (0649 HKT)
CNN's Ravi Agrawal asks whether Narendra Modi can harness the country's potential to finally deliver growth.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 0444 GMT (1244 HKT)
CNN's Ben Wedeman visits the Yazji family and finds out what it's like living life in the middle of conflict.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
Israel has deployed its Iron Dome defense system to halt incoming rockets. Here's how it works.
Even those who aren't in the line of fire feel the effects of the chaos that has engulfed Iraq since extremists attacked.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
People walk with their luggage at the Maiquetia international airport that serves Caracas on July 3, 2014. A survey by pollster Datanalisis revealed that 25% of the population surveyed (end of May) has at least one family member or friend who has emigrated from the country. AFP PHOTO/Leo RAMIREZ (Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Plane passengers are used to paying additional fees, but one airport in Venezuela is now charging for the ultimate hidden extra -- air.
ADVERTISEMENT