Why Skin Whitening Products Are So Popular (And Harmful)

Your first thought might be Michael Jackson—he was notorious for bleaching his skin near the end of his life. The more common forms today are mostly spot treatments. Although helpful for some, spot treatment taken too far or done for too long can put you at risk for some unwanted or even dangerous problems.

Why Whiten Your Skin?

Skin is a great communicator. It tells us what’s going on inside our bodies. But sometimes those lines of communication don’t go away, even after the problem has been solved. Skin whitening can help remove age spots, acne scars, hormone-related discoloration or freckles.

These spots may seem benign for some. But for many others, these spots lead to low self-esteem. So it seems like a reasonable solution to go for a quick cosmetic fix. When there’s a solution to a problem, why not try it?

Skin whiteners work to reduce the amount of melanin in the top layer of skin. Melanin is what gives our skin color. The darker your skin, the more melanin your skin produces. Your skin color also changes with the seasons, hormones, age and disease. And sometimes the only way to reverse what has been done is to use a cream.

Skin whiteners use a range of chemicals to get the job done. Anything from mercury to kojic acid (a fungus) to the most common ingredient hydroquinone.

What Are the Risks?

When you see or hear the word mercury, what do you think about? Hopefully, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘toxic,’ because that’s exactly what mercury is. Unfortunately, many Asian brands use mercury as the primary whitening agent in their products. Its use is prohibited in products sold in the U.S., but you should always be reading labels.

If you buy a product with hydroquinone, know that by law products sold over the counter can only contain 2 percent. For greater amounts, you have to get a prescription. But labels may not always detail the dosage. So be wary.

Too much of these harsh chemicals, natural or not, can lead to deleterious effects.

  • Hydroquinone could lead to even more unwanted skin discoloration with overuse.
  • Long-term use makes your skin more susceptibility to the cancer-causing power of sun exposure (wear sunscreen!).
  • Using too much to get rid of age spots may actually lead to premature skin aging.
  • Some creams use steroids which comes with its own slew of problems like increased risk of skin infections, acne, skin thinning and delayed wound healing.

These risks come with long-term use or abuse. Smart use under the supervision of a physician can help many people, but you should always know the risks before you dive in. Another good approach could be to practice self-love and compassion.

Your spots may lead you to low self-esteem or it could lead you to the person who needs the most love: yourself. Learn to love yourself—spots and all—for better self-esteem without the chemicals and risks.

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Photo Credit: Unsplash

39 comments

Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

thanks for sharing

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Suzanne C
Suzanne C.5 months ago

excellent information, but i always prefer to go with natural remedies http://wellnessbells.com/skin-whitening/

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Paulo R
Paulo R6 months ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R6 months ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R6 months ago

ty

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Ann B
Ann B7 months ago

Egyptians used arsenic to whiten their skin--and they lived to tell about it , but not long

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Sonia M

Good to know,thanks for sharing.

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Elaine W
Elaine W7 months ago

Noted with alarm for the process and compassion for the need of those who use it.

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Mike R
Mike R7 months ago

Thanks

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Dennis Hall
Dennis Hall7 months ago

thanks

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