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EXCLUSIVE: 'All natural' baby skin cream found to contain potent steroid

Health Canada has issued a warning for a popular skin cream marketed for babies and children with eczema. In a lab test, they found PureCare Herbal Cream, a product advertised as “all-natural,” actually contains a highly-potent prescription steroid called clobetasol propionate.

“Clobetasol happens to be in pretty much the most potent corticosteroid family,” says pharmacist Joseph Fanous. “It’s up there with medication we reserve for people who have years of eczema or are under dermatologist care. We don’t prescribe this easily over the counter.”

It’s shocking news to parents who say they have been using the cream on their babies for months. The label lists ingredients including shea butter, argan oil, and aloe vera, and claims to be steroid-free.

“All these families that have used it are enraged because they feel so helpless they don’t know what do,” says Cynthia Hu, a Richmond Hill mother who bought the lotion from a Mississauga distributor to help treat her daughter’s rashes.

Hu first discovered the product online through a Facebook group for moms. The lotion, touted as an herbal remedy for eczema and other skin ailments, was getting rave reviews from bloggers and moms posting amazing before and after pictures.

“We were using it as a moisturizer thinking there’s no harm, “ says Hu. “We continued to do that for six, seven months, not just on her face, but all over her body.”

But Fanous says even when prescribed to adults, clobetosal shouldn’t be used long-term or on thin skinned areas like the face because it can have lasting effects if absorbed by the body.

“We don’t want to have effects on the immune system, including one of the worst parts, stunting their growth,” says Fanous.

PureCare has issued a recall on their Facebook page, acknowledging the Health Canada findings. But for some parents who stopped using the cream, their troubles didn’t end there.

Desiree Valches-Lin, a Markham parent who had used the cream to treat eczema on her four month old son, says his skin became worse when she stopped. “He started having this reaction that was more pimple-like … all over his eyes and it spread to his cheeks.”

“The body was used to seeing this level of cortisol, or something like it,” explains Fanous. “Stopping right away has a bit of a shock effect.”

Fanous recommends any parent who used PureCare to let their doctor know immediately.

Purecare did not respond to CityNews’ request for comment. They have offered refunds to parents on their Facebook page.