Gone are the days when skin bleaching/whitening was considered a culture shock. Today, skin whitening is considered a luxury, an expensive addiction and a tool for attracting and winning over desirable members of the opposite sex. This is despite the fact that there is damning evidence and an abundance of health-related articles espousing the dangers of skin bleaching.
Skin bleaching or skin lightening is the practice of using special creams or methods on the skin to make it whiter or paler. It is a very common practice world over, although it is more common among blacks who often do it, not necessarily for its health benefits, but for the simple reason of wanting to attract potential mates.
Regardless of whether you are for or against it, there is no denying the fact that skin bleaching has come to stay. In fact, it is a multi-billion dollar industry with massive potential and an impressive annual growth rate. According to WHO, Nigeria has the largest market for bleaching creams (over 75% of Nigerian women bleach their skins!). Surprisingly, this practice is unrestricted to women alone: men, as well, are now very active participants.
Many of people bleach for different reasons, whether it’s because of uneven skin tone caused acne scarring, age spots, dark circles under the eyes, some other skin condition, or whether it be for attracting potential lovers. Regardless of the reason(s) for bleaching, it is very important that it is done within the boundaries of moderation, and not abused.
Below are 5 facts you must know before you embark on that skin-bleaching joruney:
#1. Not all skin bleachings are bad: contrary to popular beliefs that skin bleaching is ONLY done by those who are morally corrupt and of low self-esteem, skin bleaching often has useful medical applications. Doctors often prescribe ( although under strict guidelines) bleaching creams for skin conditions such as melasma, hyperpigmented scars, severe acne, skin spots associated with aging, etc. And really, for sufferers of these skin conditions, skin bleaching proves a useful remedy.
#2. Your skin type determines how well your skin bleaches: Not all skins are the same. According to Fitzpatrick Classification of skin colour, there are six different skin types: type I (very fair) to type VI (very dark). What this means is this: your skin type determines how much melanin (the hormone responsible for skin colour) your skin has. This very important bacause melanin concentration is often used as a metric for determining the extent to which SAFE bleaching is practised. For example, people with skin types I to III, with small amounts of melanin, are more easily and properly bleached than people with types V or VI skin. So before you storm that pharmacy shop demanding those strange, fancy creams, do yourself the great favour of knowing your skin type: consult your dermatologist.
#3. Bleaching creams containing hydroquinone, steroids or mercury are toxic: most European countries have banned the use of hydroquinone, or mercury as active ingredients in bleaching creams. This, primarily, is due to the fact that these compounds have been found to be very toxic. Hydroquinone, the commonest bleaching agent, has been found to cause skin cancer while mercury is the deadliest of the 3, as it is known to damage the liver, brain, kidneys, immune system, heart, eyes, etc. Don’t kill yourself bleaching. If you must bleach, do it right and healthy. Always check the labels of the creams you are buying, and if you see any of the 3 compounds, drop it! If you must bleach, do it well.
#4. Getting exposed to sunlight affects bleaching: it is counterproductive to overexpose yourself to sunlight when bleaching. This is because bleaching creams make your skin very sensitive to sunlight. The creams readily react with sun rays and cause severe skin damage.
#5. Use of natural bleaching products lessens the side effects.