Thinking About Skin Bleaching? Think Again: The Harmful Effects of Lightening Skin

by Xara Aziz
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A wave of skin lightening products have permeated the beauty market, causing many women with darker skin to consider brightening their naturally-colored skin tone due to several factors, including colorism and Eurocentric beauty standards based in Western markets.

But what many women who opt to undergo the process may not know are the harmful side effects of skin bleaching. If you or someone you know is considering skin bleaching, read more about what it entails and how it can damage your health in the long-term.

What is skin bleaching?

Skin bleaching, also known as skin lightening, involves physically removing the melanin from the skin using topical creams or by ingesting chemicals. Approximately 30% of the world’s population has undergone skin bleaching, mostly women under 30.

Is skin bleaching harmful?

The short answer is yes. Using creams or chemicals to lighten skin is considered a global health problem that causes physical and psychological harm, according to a Health News report. While some countries have begun to outlaw skin bleaching products, many black markets have begun to erupt, which has caused harmful health effects for those who undergo the process unsupervised. Furthermore, studies have found that many people who have bleached their skin face issues with self esteem and can suffer from mental distress.

What complications are associated with skin bleaching?

Reports have confirmed that some people who have chosen to bleach their skin have suffered fatal consequences. Other complications include:

Rashes: The person undergoing the skin bleaching process can have an allergic reaction to the chemicals in the products that can cause dermatitis, wounds, scars or infection.

Skin cancer: Melanin is a pigment the body produces to protect the skin from harmful UV rays from the sun. By removing the melanin, the skin is at an increased chance of developing several skin cancers including melanoma.

Wrinkles: Removing melanin from the skin can speed up the aging process and can cause premature wrinkles on the face, neck and arms. Premature aging can be reduced by maintaining the skin’s natural skin color and wearing sunscreen daily.

What is typically used in skin bleaching products?

Topical or systemic steroids: These are typically prescribed for patients to treat a variety of health conditions but prolonged unsupervised use for skin bleaching can cause infections, a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, diabetes, skin thinning, stretch marks, acne, cataracts and glaucoma.

Hydroquinone: This concoction has been a controversial treatment used to fade dark spots and lighten skin. When overused, it can lead to darkening of the skin, fetal growth retardation, and peripheral neuropathy.

What’s the chemistry in bleaching creams?

Skin bleaching creams is made up of a mix of toxic chemicals that can lead to disease in death including:

Mercury: an element that can cause permanent damage to the lungs, brain and kidneys.

Arsenic: a poisonous substance that can cause cancer, cardiac and respiratory diseases.

Lead: a chemical element that can cause neurological and gastrointestinal problems and death.

*Information retrieved from Health News

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