Kanebo Cosmetics Confirms Increase in Cases of Skin Blotches

 By Mayumi Negishi

TOKYO--Kanebo Cosmetics Inc., Japan's second-largest cosmetics maker, said Monday that the number of women suffering from dermatological blotches due to its skin-whitening products climbed to more than 7,000 women on the heels of complaints that triggered a major product recall last month.

The number of confirmed cases by the Kao Corp. unit has been climbing steadily over the last few weeks as its marketing team has fanned out across Japan to investigate the reports of skin problems. Kanebo is still looking into what caused the problems.

The ongoing investigation and growing number of confirmed cases casts a shadow over one of the more popular cosmetic products in Japan where women often use expensive creams to lighten the color of their skin. Lighter skin is considered a sign of refined beauty in Japan and other parts of Asia.

Kanebo, which is chasing Shiseido Co. in Japan's growing skin brightening market, 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 U.K. 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.

The company has enlisted two lawyers to compile a report on any corners that may have been cut in product safety during the eight years of product development and how to prevent a recurrence. The lawyers have promised a report by the beginning of September.

Kanebo, whose whitening products make up more than a quarter of its skin-care line, received a government bailout in 2004 before its cosmetics operations were sold to Kao in 2005.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20130819-704219.html?mod=googlenews_wsj


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