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What happened to Boots Smooth Care Hair Lightening Cream?

Boots Smooth Care hair lightening cream has been used and recommended for years by women with sensitive skin, so why has the company removed the product from their shelves and website without issuing a product recall?

Posted on 17 December 2018

The Cosmetics Team at Leigh Day represents a group of women who claim they have been injured by using Boots Smooth Care Hair Lightening Cream. The product is manufactured and sold by Boots and has been in circulation for a considerable time, however more recently a new formula was introduced.
The women we represent say that within minutes of using this newly formulated product they suffered:

  • Painful stinging
  • Inflamed, red skin, hot to the touch
  • Severe face and body burns and / or blister injuries
  • Peeling skin on their face
  • Scarring

We would urge anyone affected by Boots Smooth Care Hair Lightener product to contact Jennifer Ellis on 0207 650 1198.

New formula

The ‘quick and easy to use’ product’s packaging says to users ‘don’t worry, we’ve had this dermatologically tested and formulated without ammonia’. Unfortunately, our clients who allege they have been harmed by this product say the change in ingredients was not clear to them when they purchased the product. As with many women, they had been using the product under the old formula for years without adverse reactions. Whilst consumers are advised on the instructions not to exceed ten minutes when applying the product, our clients claim to have experienced symptoms within a few minutes of application.

A betrayal of customer trust

The Boots Smooth Care Hair Lightener product is often used on the face and body by women in advance of a special occasion as part of their beauty regime. These women tend to already be self-conscious about the appearance of their facial hair.

The alleged injuries have impacted on our clients’ psychological wellbeing, in particular, insecurity in their appearance and worry about the possibility of permanent scarring.

When using beauty products there is an unspoken relationship of trust between the consumer and the manufacturer. Consumers expect a cosmetic product to improve their appearance rather than cause physical and psychological harm.

We asked Boots to investigate and formally recall the unsafe product

Back in August 2018, Leigh Day urged Boots to investigate this product having identified over 50 poor reviews online. We suggested that Boots consider recalling the product. Instead, they have quietly removed the product from the shelves in store and Boots Smooth Care Hair Lightening Cream is ‘out of stock’ on their website. Unfortunately, their responsibility for this product seems to have stopped there. There does not seem to have been a formal recall and the fact that this product remains on the market through other channels is exceptionally worrying.

People could be harmed if Boots do not issue an official recall

Failing to issue a formal recall notice could mean that consumers who have purchased this product and have it stored away may still use it at some point in the future. For instance, beauty gurus and online forums are still recommending the product unaware of issues with the new formula. The product is also still available online through third party websites such as eBay, and from international sellers - particularly in India where this product is popular.

No doubt as people prepare for the upcoming warmer months they may dig out previously purchased boxes of Boots Smooth Care Hair Lightening Cream for use on their faces and bodies, unaware of the possible adverse effects from the new formulation.

We would therefore urge Boots to issue a formal recall of the product to minimise the risks of harm to their customers.

Until this is done, consumers are at risk of harm and so it is important to raise awareness of the concerns relating to this product. If you know of anyone who uses this product, please also discourage them from using this as we consider it to be potentially unsafe.

We would urge anyone affected by Boots Smooth Care Hair Lightener product to contact Jennifer Ellis on 0207 650 1198.

Tina Patel and Jennifer Ellis from Leigh Day’s Product Safety and Consumer Law department are pursuing a group action for compensation on behalf of women who claim they have suffered injuries from the use of the Boots facial hair lightening product and urge the manufacturer to issue a formal product recall.

This blog was first posted on December 17th 2018, and was updated on 12th March 2019.


Tina Patel
Consumer law Cosmetics Hips Medical devices

Tina Patel

Tina Patel is a partner in the consumer law team.