Skin bleaching refers to the use of products to lighten dark areas of the skin but it is a point to note that Skin Bleaching and It’s side effect also connotes to achieving an overall lighter complexion which could be harmful in the long run.
These products include bleaching creams, soaps, and pills, as well as professional treatments like chemical peels and laser therapy. Skin bleaching reduces the concentration or production of melanin in the skin. Melanin is a pigment produced by cells called melanocytes. The amount of melanin in your skin is mostly determined by genetics.
People with dark skin have more melanin. Hormones, sunlight, and certain chemicals also affect melanin production. When you apply a skin bleaching product to the skin, such as hydroquinone, it decreases the number of melanocytes in your skin. Skin Bleaching and It’s side effect can result in lighter skin and a more even appearance to the skin.
Skin Bleaching and It’s side effect as a public health crisis is a peculiarly understudied area of public health and efforts to prevent injuries to the skin or skin safety has received little or no attention despite the increasing number of casualties.
While exposure to solar radiation accounts for a larger proportion of skin traumas in the form of cancer among vulnerable population, skin damage resulting from skin bleaching is one of the most common forms of potentially harmful body modification practices worldwide and comparatively, has been given little research attention.
The rates on skin bleaching is challenging particularly in Nigeria where there is an unspoken precedent towards bleaching with an existential reality to how lighter skin is socially perceived and rewarded. Results showed that 80% of women who use bleaching products had no knowledge to the harmful ingredients contained in the products or the extent to it or the effects on general health and skin health. 70% of users of skin bleaching agents do not use sunscreen consistently or at all and 58% of users would like to stop but either does not wish to get darker or are sensitive to societal pressure and obscenities.
Repeated exposures of the skin to the bleaching agents inhibit the activity of the enzyme tyrosine. This results in reduction in the quantity of melanin in the skin. Eventually, the skin colour becomes lightened. Since the epidermal turnover period is approximately 28 days, there is a need for recurrent usage of the bleaching agents on the skin and uniformity of skin color.
This causes the skin to become fragile and irritable, putting bleachers at high risk for serious skin conditions that pose both aesthetic and medical complications. Skin Bleaching and It’s side effect includes Skin lesions, hyperpigmentation, ochronosis, eczema, and severe acne.
The long-term use of skin-bleaching creams is also linked to a higher risk of developing cancer, hypertension, liver or kidney disease or failure, and sometimes infertility. In fact, research in sub-Saharan Africa suggests that skin bleaching is a major contributor to the high incidence of skin cancer and leukemia in Africa and among the four leading malignancies in Africa.
Despite these great risks, skin bleaching is still prevalent on the African continent.
A number of countries have banned the use of skin bleaching products because of the dangers associated with them. In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also issued a notice that over-the-counter (OTC) skin bleaching products are not recognized as safe and effective. The products were deemed not safe for human use based on a review of evidence.
It is very important to note that Skin Bleaching and It’s side effect has been associated with a number of adverse health effects such as;
Some skin bleaching creams made outside of the United States have been linked to mercury toxicity. Mercury has been banned as an ingredient in skin lightening products in the United States, but products made in other countries still contain mercury.
In a 2014 study Trusted Source of 549 skin lightening creams bought online and in stores, nearly 12 percent contained mercury. About half of these products came from U.S. stores. Signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning include: numbness, high blood pressure, fatigue, sensitivity to light, neurologic symptoms such as tremor, memory loss and irritability, kidney failure.
Case studies and reports have linked the use of skin bleaching products to contact dermatitis. This is inflammation of the skin caused by contact with certain substances. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and include; skin redness, blisters, skin ulcers, hives, dry, scaly skin, swelling, itching, burning and tenderness.
Exogenous ochronosis (EO) is also a Skin Bleaching and It’s side effect isn’t far fetched. It is a skin disorder that causes blue-black pigmentation. It usually occurs as a complication of long-term use of skin bleaching creams that contain hydroquinone. People who use it on large areas of the body or on the entire body are more likely to develop EO.
Skin bleaching creams that contain corticosteroids can cause steroid acne. Steroid acne mostly affects the chest, but can also show up on the back, arms, and other parts of the body with long-term use of corticosteroids. Symptoms can include: whiteheads and blackheads, small red bumps, large, painful red lumps and acne scars.
Nephrotic syndrome is a kidney disorder often caused by damage to the blood vessels in your kidneys responsible for filtering waste and excess water. It causes your body to excrete too much protein in your urine. Skin lightening creams containing mercury have been associated with nephrotic syndrome. Symptoms can include: swelling (edema) around the eyes, swollen feet and ankles, foamy urine, loss of appetite and fatigue.
Several African countries, including as Rwanda and Ghana, recently banned the use of skin bleaching products because they are dangerous. However, this does not stop these skin bleaching products from being sold illegally.
Banning bleaching products will not completely solve the problem of unsafe skin bleaching unless other measures are also put in place. African women don’t bleach their skin simply because they are vain. They lighten their skin because fair skin or a light skin is too often seen as more attractive and acceptable and provides them with an economic advantage.
The issue of colorism and its economic and social impact is a major part of tackling what has now become a public health problem. Without sustained work to change this perception, we will only be treating the symptoms but never actually curing the disease.
Jenny Soul is a passionate relationships expert, dating counselor and sales coach. She is also a songwriter, performer and mum. When she is not writing, she engages in counselling sessions and motivational speeches to young people.