Do not bleach it to ugly skin cancer
What is skin bleaching
Skin whitening, also known as skin lightening and skin bleaching, is the practice of using chemical substances in an attempt to lighten the skin or provide an even skin color by reducing the melanin (skin tissue) concentration in the skin. Several chemicals have been shown to be effective in skin whitening, while some have proven to be toxic (harmful) or have questionable safety profiles. This includes mercury compounds which may cause (damaging of nerves) problems and kidney problems. In a number of African countries, between 25 and 80% of women regularly use skin whitening products.
What determines our skin colour
Skin colour is determined by the amount of melanin in the skin. Melanin is a pigment produced by specialized cells called melanocytes. People with dark skin have more melanin. How much melanin your skin has is mainly a matter of your genetic makeup. Sunlight exposure, hormones, skin damage, and exposure to certain chemicals can also affect melanin production. Changes in skin colour will often resolve themselves. For instance, tans fade when the amount of direct exposure to sunlight is reduced. But over time, certain discolorations, such as “age” spots or “liver” spots, become more or less permanent. Skin bleaching is a cosmetic treatment to reduce the prominence of skin discolorations and even out the colour of the skin. You can buy bleaching creams over the counter and by prescription.
Some people apply skin lightener to their entire body to change their complexion, but this can be very risky. The active ingredient in some skin lighteners is mercury, so bleaching can lead to mercury poisoning. Mercury is a toxic agent that can cause serious psychiatric, neurological, and kidney problems. Pregnant women who use a skin lightener with mercury can pass the mercury to their unborn child.
The use of mercury as an ingredient in skin lighteners is banned in the US. However, some skin lighteners produced outside the US may still contain mercury.
How do skin lighteners work
Skin lighteners contain an active ingredient or a combination of ingredients that reduces the amount of melanin skin tissues) in the skin where it is applied.
Risks of skin lighteners
One of the most significant risks of using some skin lighteners is the potential exposure to mercury. One study found that nearly 1 out of every 4 skin lighteners made in Asia and sold outside the US contained mercury. There are other potential risks of skin lighteners. Those risks can include the following: prolonged use can contribute to premature aging of skin; long-term use may increase the risk of skin cancer from sun exposure.
Always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen when using a skin lightener and going outside. Steroids in some skin lighteners may increase risk for skin infections, skin thinning, acne, and poor wound healing. Applying steroids to large areas of skin may put you at risk of health problems related to steroids being absorbed by the body. Hydroquinone may cause unwanted and untreatable skin discoloration. Various bleaching agents, including natural ingredients, can cause skin irritation or allergic reaction.
Is skin bleaching necessary
Skin bleaching is not medically necessary but something people choose to do for cosmetic reasons. Some people use it to lighten melasma, blemishes, and age spots, while others try to use it to alter their skin tone. People may feel this will make them more attractive or more confident. However, the practice of attempting to lighten a person’s complexion links to racism.
Racism frames being white as superior to all other races and ethnicities. This also applies to beauty standards, causing people to view white European forms of beauty as the most desirable. Another key driver of skin bleaching is colourism, which is related to — but distinct from — racism. Colourism is a discriminatory practice of preferring lighter skin tones over darker skin tones, both interracially (within groups) or thoracically (across groups). It can affect any racial or ethnic group. Colourism is rooted in racism, and like racism, it places value based on skin colour. This shows how the negative messages people hear about skin tone can substantially alter their self-image and influence.
What is hydroquinone
Hydroquinone is a depigmentation agent that is present in many skins bleaching products. A person can buy a 2% solution over the counter or seek a prescription for a stronger 4% solution. Results usually appear within 3–6 months after applying hydroquinone one to two times per day. Hydroquinone has many potential adverse effects. It can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so it is important to use sunscreen. Some other potential side effects include: blue-gray skin discolouration, skin irritation and redness, burning damage to the skin, skin dryness, false elevation of blood sugar in a blood sugar test.
What is mercury
Mercury is a toxic metal that harms humans and the environment. Despite this, it is in many Trusted Source skin-lightening products, including soaps, creams, and other cosmetics. It inhibits the formation of melanin, resulting in a lighter skin tone.
People who use mercury-containing products on the skin may develop: skin rashes, skin discolouration, reduced resistance to skin infections, anxiety, depression, psychosis, peripheral neuropathy, kidney damage, with enough exposure, mercury can cause death. Mercury may appear on product labels under a different name, however, not all manufacturers list their ingredients transparently, making it hard to know if skin lightening products contain mercury. Instructions to avoid contact with metal jewellery can be a warning sign, as mercury bonds to some precious metals, such as gold. Numerous countries have banned mercury for cosmetic use, but not all. Even in places where it is illegal, it is often still possible to buy products that contain it online.
When people wash mercury-containing products off their skin, it eventually ends up in the ocean, where it can enter the food chain and contaminate fish. Eating these fish can also harm humans, as well as other animals. The results of skin lightening treatment, whether for specific areas or the whole complexion, vary greatly. Safer ingredients, such as niacinamide and vitamin C, may modestly reduce. However, the extent of the reduction depends on the individual case. Attempts to change the entire skin tone are often much riskier. It can result in patchy, making the skin darker in places.
Skin bleaching is a common cosmetic practice worldwide. Some use it to lighten specific areas of hyperpigmentation. However, many use skin bleaching products to lighten their complexion overall. There is no safe or reliable way to lighten someone’s skin tone. Products or DIY recipes that claim to do so carry numerous risks. Even legal and over-the-counter options, such as hydroquinone creams, can sometimes lead to permanent discolouration. The pressure of white beauty standards, colourism, and racism drives the demand for skin bleaching products. However, research shows that educating people on the potential risks, and fostering self-acceptance, can prevent people from using risky products. If a person is concerned about hyperpigmentation or is considering trying skin bleaching, the safest strategy is to speak with a doctor.
The Gambia bans skin bleaching
Gambian lawmakers voted to uphold a ban on skin-lightening products after a debate in parliament. Skin-lightening or bleaching agents, especially unauthorised ones, may cause multiple health risks such as scarring, blistering, nerve and bone damage.
The practice is widely used across Africa, with The Gambia being no exception at all! Ski-lightening has been banned in The Gambia since 1996.
But despite this and all the risks, people continue to try to make them more beautiful with dangerous methods like skin bleaching and tanning.
How you get my dark skin back after bleaching
Here is how to treat skin damaged by bleaching cream at home.
Aloe Vera is one of the home remedies that you can use to treat skin damaged by bleaching cream.
Potato peels have been used for ages to treat burnt skin. Also coconut milk, lavender oil, turmeric and yoghurt.
What will happen if you stop using hydroquinone
Hydroquinone may prove beneficial for a maximum of five to six months. Once you stop using it, you may experience irritation on the affected parts of your body. This may lead to inflammation.
How do you know if my cream has hydroquinone
Pour out a small amount of your cream or lotion in another container. Leave it open, don’t cover it. Let it be exposed for two days. If the lotion or cream turns brown then it has hydroquinone. A lotion or cream with hydroquinone will lighten or whiten you in less than a week, a natural made product can never do that.
How do you identify a bleaching cream
So how do you know that the cream you bought is bleaching your skin? It has hydroquinone, mercury, cysteamine and dermo corticoids. No matter the brand name if it has any of these ingredients, be rest assured that it will bleach your skin. Many who engage in skin bleaching have little or no knowledge of the harms of this practice. There are many harmful substances present in bleaching chemicals.
Also, the harmful effects of bleaching are also seen if you start bleaching your skin at a very young age, for example, below the age of 20. As this is a young age your skin is very tender and delicate and thus the chemicals present in the bleach will have many harmful effects on the skin.
Is skin bleaching permanent
A common question associated with skin bleaching creams is whether they are permanent or not. The truth is skin bleaching creams do not get rid of the melanin permanently. This is because the skin is constantly being renewed, and this includes formation of new melanin by melanin-producing cells known as melanocytes.
Finally, I join many doctors and beauticians who advise us that we should eat healthily, exercise and use body creams rich in Vitamin E. Aloe vera and collagen elastin will produce more fascinating effects than applying mere bleaching creams to black skin.
Dr Hassan Azadeh MD is a senior lecturer at the University of The Gambia, senior consultant in obstetrics gynaecology, and clinical director at Medicare Health Services.
For further information, check out the WHO website or email [email protected] or send messages to Dr Azadeh’s WhatsApp on 7774469 during the weekday from 3 to 6pm.