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Skin lightening products: How your cream could be killing you

skin products on face

Medically reviewed by Dr. Unsa Mohsin.

Have you noticed that most of the products available in the market for skincare are skin lightening products? From creams, face cleansers, soaps to bleach and injections, skin lightening products have flooded society. They tell you how clean, clear and glowing your skin will become after continued use – the spots will disappear, dark circles will vanish and you will be “fresh” faced as ever. There’s no doubt that these products are problematic because they stem from a skewed sense of beauty, but are they even safe to use?

In this article, we talk about why you should avoid skin lightening products at all costs.

Harmful ingredients

Many products contain ingredients that can destroy not only your skin but your overall health. Hydroquinone is one such chemical found in many whitening products. It is described by the Local Government Association in the UK as “the biological equivalent of paint stripper”. It strips the top layer of your skin, making you more susceptible to skin cancer, liver damage and kidney dysfunction. Creams containing this chemical are banned in the UK unless advised by a doctor.

Mercury poisoning

In a report published in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Report last year, a 47-year-old Mexican American woman’s case of mercury poisoning was discussed. The woman had been regularly applying skin lightening creams for seven years and one day experienced strange sensations and weakness in her arms. After medical investigations, it was revealed that the toxic amounts of mercury from skin lightening creams had been absorbed into her bloodstream.

Her condition worsened quickly to the degree that she lost the ability to speak and see clearly, had difficulty walking and ultimately landed on the hospital bed. It was not possible to reverse the toxicity in her body and she was reduced to receiving food through a tube: Effectively damaged for the rest of her life due to skin lightening creams.

According to a study, mercury is added to skin lightening creams due to its whitening effects and the consequence of using those products include renal damage, pain and neuropsychiatric symptoms. Skin bleaching products also contain mercury and are just as harmful.

Dermatitis and other skin disorders

Skin bleaching and skin lightening products can irritate and damage your skin. It can affect the healing abilities of skin, cause black and blue spots, uneven colouring and sensitivity to the sun. They can also cause acne and eczema. Another big risk is dermatitis which is indicated by redness, stinging and itching.

In many countries around the world such as USA, UK and Rwanda, governments are taking action against skin lightening products in order to protect people. In Pakistan, this is not the case. Therefore, it is extremely important to be mindful of how these products can damage your health and wellbeing. Next time you are out shopping, it may be best to steer clear of all the ‘whitening’ things you see.



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