Dangers of Skin Bleaching and Lightening

Dangers of Skin Bleaching and Lightening

The outrageously scandalous “lighter is better” myth exists in a more potent form in the United Kingdom. This has resulted in a huge market there for skin lightening products. Black skinned people in the UK use a lot of these skin lightening products, often knowing what the side effects are and still wanting to be whiter just to fit in.  Let us speak out against entrenched racist concepts.  In third world countries, it is much worse.  Poorly labeled or mislabeled products attempt to validate the myth and just feed profit motive.  Under the counter products proliferate and prey upon the unsophisticated who generally do not know what the dangers are.  Manufacturers may not be fully interested in the side effects or labeling may be misleading or downright false. 

Why skin color exists in various shades is a trivial matter. It has to do with genetics; where the previous two-hundred or so generations of your family lived and what they ate. Black is beautiful. Keep your black skin in the best possible condition with daily microdermabrasion. It only costs about 55¢ a day. You can afford that and you are certainly worth it. 

Beware of skin bleaches and lightening creams, most especially creams manufactured outside of the United states.  Topical hydroquinone (C 6 H 6 O 2 ) comes in 2% (as a cosmetic) and up to 4% or higher, available from a physician by prescription.  Hydroquinone is available topically by itself or in combination with tretinoin .05% to 0.1%.  Research has shown hydroquinone and tretinoin to be both effective skin lighteners and dangerous substances.

Hydroquinone has been shown to cause leukemia in mice and other animals. The European Union banned it from cosmetics in 2001. Still it materializes in the third world and finds its way to America. It is legally sold in the United States as an over-the-counter drug if the concentration of hydroquinone does not exceed 2%. Even in these strengths it is unsafe and un cool. These products survive because of corrupt profit motive and the shameful belief that the lighter your skin, the better. 

Would you use a cream or soap that may cause skin cancer, liver damage, kidney damage or poisoning? At a subconscious level in contemporary society there still exists the an old myth that lighter complexions are the equivalent to beauty, assets and success. That myth is just plain crap. Let us be proud of our black skin. Let us take care of our black skin. 

    1) Dermatologic Surgery , March 2006, pages 365-371

    2) A Vision of Pale Beauty Carries Risks for Asia’s Women – New York Times

General Information

Skin lightening, bleaching and whitening is not a new fad by any means and it has the most serious potential to damage the skin. People of color in countries such as India and Africa are relentlessly targeted by unscrupulous advertisers to use dangerous skin lighteners. What was initially introduced as a means of evening out the skin tone and complexion by lightening or eliminating the signs of sun-damage, age spots or effects of hyper-pigmentation on the skin, skin bleaching and lightening eventually spiraled out of control. It became an unhealthy obsession that was consistently pursued by the people of color in order to become fairer or whiter and have clear skin.

It seems that centuries old racial discrimination which lauded white supremacy, unreasonable social standards, and a resulting inferiority complex were the reasons why skin bleaching and lightening became so popular.
While skin whitening products, when used under the professional supervision of a skin specialist or dermatologist, can provide some desired, healthy results, they are, unfortunately, seldom used with proper care and directions. As such, the frequent use of skin bleaching and lightening products leads to the most undesirable and unwanted of results.

The purpose of this article is to enlighten you about the dangers and adverse effects of unchecked and unsupervised use of skin bleaching and lightening products. First let’s talk about what the skin bleaching products are made of and how do they work.

What are Skin Bleaching Products Composed of? Almost all bleaching products are composed of either of the three active ingredients – namely Mercury, Hydroquinone, or Various Corticosteroids. Hydroquinone with the chemical composition of [C6H4(OH)2] is a toxic compound easily available in 2% concentrations for cosmetic use, and is available up to 4% or higher with a physician prescription. Found in a majority of hair dyes, and used in black and white film and its processing, Hydroquinone is also used for the manufacturing of rubber.

Mercury is another toxic chemical that is readily absorbed within the human body. It is often used in various skin lightening products as plain mercury, mercuric, mercurio, calomel, or mercurous chloride. 

Last but not least, of all the various harmful compounds, a vast majority of the skin-lightening products also contain significant amounts of corticosteroids.

How Do They Work?

Most skin bleaching products lighten skin because of the active ingredient or combination of active ingredients that aims to reduce the amount of melanin, or the pigment producing compound found within beautiful black skin.

Hydroquinone works in skin bleaching products by affecting the speed of production of the enzyme tyrosinase which is responsible for the melanin formation. This effectively slows down the amount of melanin in the skin, leading to a lightened skin tone and complexion. Topical corticosteroids are used as skin lightening agents because they act as vaso-constrictors, or agents which narrow blood vessels, effectively reducing the flow of blood to an area, providing the skin a whiter appearance. These steroids also considerably slow down cell reproduction which leads to a decreased number of melanocytes or melanin producing cells aiding in giving the skin a lighter appearance with the reduced melanin content.

Harmful Effects of Skin Bleaching

There are more than a few adverse effects of regular skin bleaching. Some of them include:
  • Skin irritation
  • Skin rashes
  • Burning sensation
  • Excessive redness
  • Flakiness or excessive drying of the skin, leading to cracking and peeling
  • The extensive use of hydroquinone-based products can lead to a condition called ‘ochronosis’ which causes blue-black dark patches on certain areas of the skin.
  • Hydroquinone makes the skin considerably more sensitive to the UV rays of the sun. This makes the users of skin lightening products more prone to serious sunburns and skin cancers.
  • Hydroquinone is a known mutagenic, and is said to significantly increase the risk of diseases such as adrenal dysfunction, liver diseases and has also been connected to various thyroid disorders.
  • Research shows that Hydroquinone has clear carcinogenic properties and is known to cause leukemia in mice and other animals.
  • Hydroquinone in combination with another compound known as tretinoin is also known to cause significant liver damage upon prolonged use.
  • Over-dose or prolonged use of hydroquinone based whitening products may lead to skin lightening on the face, but can lead to hyperpigmentation of the body’s extremities such as the fingers, toes, and ears.
  • Extended use of mercury based skin lightening products can cause serious skin discoloration and hyperpigmentation along with severe scarring.
  • Long-term use of mercury based products can also affect the systemic health in that it is closely associated with psychosis, depression, as kidney dysfunction.
  • The use of high-doses of corticosteroids slows down the skin cell regeneration leading to a thinning of the top most layer of the skin or the epidermis. This not only makes people uses the skin bleaching products more susceptible to sun damage, and various pigmentation issues, it can also lead to the increased visibility of the green/blue veins of the body.
  • Steroids used in skin lightening creams over an extended period of time are also known to lead to hormone imbalances, and have the potential to cause diseases such as Cushings Syndrome – a condition which adversely affects the body’s adrenal glands.
  • The cocktail of the various chemical compounds used in skin lightening products is also known to exacerbate the effect of skin infections and diseases such as acne, eczema, and dermatitis.
A majority of these skin bleaching and lightening compounds are actually banned from use in cosmetic products by the FDA. However, a majority of manufacturers continue to use them regardless, producing widely used products that can permanently damage a person’s skin. The only reason why these products are so obviously popular and available in open markets because of the shameful belief that the lighter skin tone is somehow better as compared to a darker complexion.

Lighter is better is not just a myth, it is a gross misconception that is used to fuel the corrupt profit motive of the skin bleaching manufacturing industry.

Why would you want to use a cream or soap, or any other product on your skin that you know may cause things such skin cancer, kidney damage, systemic poisoning, or liver damage? Be proud of your heritage, and your beautiful black skin with only the best products in the market. You can easily keep your black skin in the best possible condition with the use of Refreshen microdermabrasion cream, just once a day in the shower and nothing more.  Just love the skin you are in!
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