Trading Standards officers inspected the products after they were alerted by Border Force.
A council spokesman said: “Officers noticed many of these brands had previously been found to contain hydroquinone – a banned substance linked to causing cancer.
“Ten products were sent for safety testing and all failed.
“Eight contained hydroquinone and two were incorrectly labelled.”
An investigation is taking place into the importer. The products arrived into Gatwick Airport on May 15.
Peter Aston, Trading Standards team manager, said: “Skin lightening creams containing hydroquinone that haven’t been prescribed by a doctor are banned in the UK, as they can cause serious side effects if used incorrectly.
“Although some of the products detained listed hydroquinone as an ingredient, most did not and we must remind those using these types of products to only buy from reputable sources.”
Debbie Kennard, West Sussex County Council Cabinet member, said: “These products are very dangerous and have been linked to causing cancer and other skin diseases. I would like to thank our Trading Standards team for helping to put a stop to this unscrupulous trade.”