Skin bleaching or whitening refers to the practice of using chemical substances in an attempt to lighten the skin tone or provide an even skin complexion by lessening the concentration of melanin.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 77 percent of women in Nigeria use skin-lightening products, the world’s highest percentage. That compares with 59 percent in Togo, and 27 percent in Senegal.
There are hazardous consequences to this practice even though some Nigerian celebrities proudly show off and even promote bleached skin.
Let’s take a look at seven reasons skin bleaching is not good for you.
- Skin cancer
Skin whitening creams contain mainly two chemicals: Hydroquinone and Mercury. Most creams sold in the market are a dangerous cocktail of compounds like steroids and tretinoin, alongside hydroquinone. These compounds have carcinogenic properties and long-term use can lead to lethal health concerns like skin cancer and liver damage.
- Thinning of the skin
Repeated use of skin whitening creams may cause thinning of the skin. This condition is characterised by severe bruising, exposed capillaries (capillaries/veins can easily be seen and are close to the skin), stretch marks and other serious skin problems.
Using hydroquinone for a period longer than three months will lead to darkening of the skin (exogenous ochronosis). This damage is permanent and very resistant to further treatment. Over-usage of skin whitening products can also cause hyperpigmentation at the level of the fingers, toes, ears and other extremities, causing them to look darker and mismatched.
- Skin healing properties
Normal and undamaged skin has the ability to heal itself and regenerate skin cells. When the skin is subjected to heavy or continuous doses of the chemicals in skin bleaching creams, it loses its ability to heal. Hence, injuries or rashes are much difficult to treat.
- Skin irritations
The chemical substance hydroquinone in these skin bleaching creams causes skin irritations like redness, peeling of the skin, rash, dryness and burning.
- Worsening of skin infections
People who suffer from skin diseases like acne, dermatitis and eczema are negatively affected by skin bleaching/whitening creams. Furthermore, most skin whitening creams contain steroids which when used on acne (pimples) can block the pores and lead to the development of new acne.
- Mercury poisoning
One of the more serious risks of unsupervised and continuous use of skin whitening creams is Mercury Poison. According to the WHO, mercury poisoning can cause Kidney damage, Skin rashes, Skin discoloration and scarring. It also leads to a reduction in skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, Anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy (damage of peripheral nerves).