Because it does something that the manufacturers want their product to do, such as contribute to skin whitening.
Phenylmercury and other organic mercury compounds (as opposed to methylmercury, which is the form in fish, the most common source of mercury in humans) was previosuly commonly used as an antiseptic agent in skin creams, diaper washes, and other pharmaceuticals. While this is now illegal in this country, mercury compounds are still in use on devloping countries as antiseptic agents, and are also in skin creams where they are supposed to produce skin lightening. Last year, the EPA issued a warning about skin creams from Mexico. Multiple articles can be found by searching “EPA skin cream warning.”
When applied to the skin mercury blocks your body’s production of melanin, the substance that gives color to hair and skin. It also, as Anon112940 pointed out, acts as an antiseptic and is still legally included in small amounts as a preservative to some eye makeups.
Mercury-containing beauty products should be avoided, because it is a toxic metal that is accumulated in the human body after multiple exposures. Improper disposal of mercury containing products also puts the environment at risk.
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