Beauty products from leading South Korean brands including Skinfood, 3CE and Etude House have been found to contain amounts of heavy metal exceeding the legal limit.

Eyebrow pencils and liquid concealer, among others, from eight producers were found to contain excessive antimony – also known as kohl, a type of lustrous gray metalloid whose dust particles are suspected to cause cancer and liver and kidney damage if inhaled or absorbed, according to a recent test by South Korea’s food and medicine safety authority.

Excessive and prolonged use of antimony may also cause skin irritation and dermatitis. But this metal is still widely found in cosmetics and dyeing products.

The South Korean watchdog noted 10.1 to 14.3 micrograms of antimony in a number of 1 gram samples it tested, prompting a mandated recall.

Brands 3CE and Etude House all responded and have taken the relevant products off their shelves and will arrange refunds for customers who have already bought the products.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong Customs inspected 49 points of sale citywide and found none of the products were on sale.

South Korean cosmetics now command an increasing market share across Asia, particularly in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy in Seoul noted that the tests reflected how serious they took the supervision of production and sales and that consumers’ confidence in South Korean products would remain unaffected.