Side Effects of Skin Whitening Creams

Using products to lighten one's skin tone continues to be widespread phenomena. In certain countries like India and Philippines, whenever you open the television, you are guaranteed to find a lot of commercials popularizing creams with lightening features. Even though our society is adapting to the different forms of beauty across races, people still wish to have fairer skin.

The need to have fairer skin is quite popular across the Caribbean, African, and Asian countries because of the set beauty standards across the world. These countries have been fighting against this multi-billion dollar industry. You might be wondering how much harm can few skin whitening creams cause that these countries are waging war against these cream companies?

After looking into the most popular skin whitening products across the world, we were staggered to find out the potential these creams have to have an adverse effect on your health. Many popular skin-lightening creams have side effects because they consist of a chemical called hydroquinone. So, the first question would be what’s so wrong about hydroquinone?

Side Effects of Hydroquinone

Let’s make this clear, Hydroquinone [C6H4(OH)2] is a toxic chemical. DO you know what’s common between processing of black and white film, rubber manufacturing, and hair dyes? Well, all of them utilize hydroquinone for their production. The harsh chemicals used in the manufacturing process is present in the skin whitening creams. That ought to make you realize how harmful can these creams be. The chemical is said to have efficient bleaching properties. It is also known to slow down the formation of the enzyme, tyrosinase, that in turn leads to a reduction in melanin produced.

Scientists are yet to discover the full potential health risks due to hydroquinone but have discovered that hydroquinone is cytotoxic, which means it is toxic to cells. Hydroquinone also has mutagenic properties which means that it can cause genetic alterations in your body. Also, the most dangerous, hydroquinone has been found to be carcinogenic, i.e., cancer causing. The chemical is also capable of increasing the risks of complications caused due to thyroid disorders, liver diseases, and adrenal dysfunction. Countries such as Europe, Japan, and Australia have imposed a ban on hydroquinone to be sold as a skin whitener.

Even though the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has banned the use of hydroquinone since 2006, skin-lightening creams containing 2% hydroquinone can be obtained over-the-counter. Moreover, creams that contain at most 4 % hydroquinone can be obtained by prescription from any physician.

What happens if you use hydroquinone for longer periods of time?

In case you are using products containing Hydroquinone for longer periods of time, you may develop a condition known as “ochronosis.” This condition leads to a blue-black darkening in certain areas of the skin.

Talking of Mercury

Mercury is another chemical that is commonly found in numerous skin lightening creams. Back in 2013, the FDA released a notice wherein they requested people to refrain from the use of creams containing mercury.

Mercury leads to mercuric poisoning. The chemical is very easily absorbed into the body. But the problem lies in its removal from the body. If you use creams containing mercury, then you might get skin rashes, discolouration of the skin, and may even lead to scarring. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), using skin-whitening creams containing mercury can lead to liver and the nervous system damage. Mercury can also lead to depression and even interferes with children’s mental growth.

When you go shopping for skin whitening creams, keep an eye out for words such as “mercury,” “mercurous chloride,” “mercuric,” “Mercurio,” or “calomel.”

Some of the serious ill effects of using skin whitening products include:

  • Skin Cancer: Compounds used in skin lightening creams such as Hydroquinone, mercury, tretinoin, and steroids have carcinogenic properties. The long-term use of these creams can lead to severe health concerns like liver damage and skin cancer.
  • Thinning of the Skin: Exploitation of skin whitening creams can lead to severe bruising, exposed capillaries, stretch marks, etc.
  • Reduction of Skin Healing Properties: Our skin has a regeneration property which means that if you get an injury on your skin, then your skin can heal itself. But long exposure to skin whitening creams can eliminate this property from your skin.
  • Skin Irritations: Prolonged use of skin whitening creams can lead to redness, peeling of the skin, rash, dryness, and burning.

So, the bottom line is that a lot of the skin whitening creams are harmful. But are there any alternatives? The answer is Yes. Check out this article:


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