Skin Whitening | Are whitening beauty creams harmful?

Skin Whitening | Are whitening beauty creams harmful?

Skin Whitening | Are whitening creams dangerous?

Some psychologists argue that there is an underlying reason people whiten their skin – low self-esteem and, to some extent, self-hatred. Some skin whitening products which contain mercury, cortisone, corticosteroids and many substances are harmful to health and as a result have been banned in many countries. However, it is reported that the product is still available to consumers in some parts of Africa, South America and Asia.

Embedded in the minds of many at a young age is the adage that says “if white is good,” a belief that has taken away the dignity of millions of people. Without changing this mindset, no official ban or public education campaign can stop these people from risking damaging their health in pursuing what they believe to be beauty.

Warning ! Don’t use just any product to whiten your skin!

They are very aggressive, very stripping, very abrasive. They contain toxic substances if used continuously: hydroquinone, mercury, lead…

What is skin whitening?

Skin lightening, or skin whitening, is a cosmetic procedure that aims to lighten dark areas of the skin or achieve a generally paler or whiter skin tone.

A distinction must be made between:

Cosmetics, creams, lotions, which can be used to reduce the appearance of scars, reduce redness of the skin, freckles. This is a brightening product.

It is usually used to improve the appearance of blemishes such as birthmarks and dark patches (melasma).

Skin lightening procedures work by reducing the concentration or production of melanin in the skin. Melanin is the pigment that gives skin its color and helps protect it from the sun.

The main techniques used to lighten the skin include:
  • skin lightening cream
  • laser treatment

Trying a skin lightening procedure is a big decision. It can be expensive, time consuming, and the results cannot be guaranteed.

If you’re thinking of going ahead, be sure to be absolutely sure why you want to try it and don’t rush.

Read also: Foods Rich in Magnesium Important for Our Health

It’s a good idea to discuss your plans with your GP first. They may talk to you about your reasons for wanting to lighten your skin, and there may be medical reasons why this procedure is not suitable for you.

Skin lightening techniques can cause serious side effects and complications. People with dark skin tones are particularly at risk for this problem.

Are there any safe whitening creams?

Yes. They are developed by major cosmetic companies. There are also stronger products available by prescription for people with pigmentation problems.

You can imagine that this is what Michael Jackson used to lighten his skin. Suffering from vitiligo, she would rather blacken everything with such a drug than cover it all up. Too bad she didn’t become a vitiligo ambassador.
For this product to be safe, you must follow the dosage exactly, but this is far from the case for everyone.

Why do you want to lighten your skin?

Skin lightening, also known as skin whitening and skin discoloration, is the cosmetic practice of depigmentation of the skin (by reducing melanin) with the aid of chemicals and used to cover freckles or modify dull or dark skin for aesthetic reasons or social pressure.

How do you know if a whitening cream is safe?

Labels should not be relied upon to tell if a lightening cream is healthy or not, as the presence of hydroquinone or topical corticosteroids is not always indicated. Some tubes of cream even say “hydroquinone free” even though they contain it.

So how do you know if a whitening cream is harmful or not? “You have to trust the distribution channel”, in other words, you should not buy these products in independent shops, but go to pharmacies or go to your dermatologist.

We must consider the purchase of these creams as a medical act.

“You have to consider the purchase of these creams as a medical act. These should only be used to solve skin problems and not to “regain your mestizo complexion”. So you have to go see a dermatologist who will prescribe a safe anti-stain or lightening cream, and go to the pharmacy to get the appropriate tube of cream.

Harmful products that whiten the skin

Most whitening products are based on cortisone, corticosteroids or steroids that alter the melanin that colors and protects the skin.

This treatment changes the nature of the skin and promotes infection and prevents scarring, which means that at the slightest pimple, the slightest injury, or even without anything specific happening, serious problems can be triggered when using this kind of product: pigmentation disorders, burning, increased hair growth, acne or stretch marks or skin cancer.

Prolonged use of lightening treatments can lead to decreased hormone production by the adrenal glands and visible signs such as weight gain or facial swelling, as well as serious illnesses: kidney failure, diabetes, high blood pressure, allergies, bone problems, blindness.

These low-cost lightening treatments, often without mentioning the composition, without the modality of use are toxic!


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mercury is an ingredient often found in skin lightening creams and soaps. It is also found in other cosmetic products such as eye makeup remover and mascara. Lightening products in the form of soap or cream are commonly used in many people who want to whiten their skin.

Mercury is present in cosmetics in two forms: inorganic and organic. Mercury in inorganic forms (eg ammoniated mercury) is used in skin lightening soaps and creams, while inorganic mercury compounds ([ethyl mercury] and phenylmercury salts) are used as cosmetic preservatives in eye makeup removers and mascara.

Health effects of mercury

The main side effect of inorganic mercury in skin lightening creams and soaps is kidney damage. The mercury in these products can also cause rashes, discoloration and scarring of the skin, as well as reduce the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections. Other possible effects include anxiety, depression, psychosis, and peripheral neuropathy.
The medical literature reports specific cases of individuals suffering from the above health effects after exposure to mercury through skin lightening creams or soaps.

One study found a high percentage of nephrotic syndrome (damage to the kidneys that causes protein levels in the urine to rise) in African women who used, over a period ranging from one month to three years, a skin lightening cream containing ammonia mercury chloride.

Mercury contained in soaps, creams and other cosmetic products is eventually released into wastewater. It then enters the environment where it is methylated and enters the food chain as toxic methylmercury in fish. Pregnant women who eat fish containing methylmercury transfer mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in the development of neurodevelopmental deficits in children.

What is the effect of hydroquinone?

Considered for decades as a miracle whitening product, hydroquinone, a chemical, can treat skin discoloration due to melasma, acne scars, and other dark spots and hyperpigmentation disorders, as well as whiten the skin.

Hydroquinone is used as a reducing agent for developing films and images. Due to the hazards to the environment and health, efforts are underway to replace substances for this application with less risky substances whenever possible. It is also used as an inhibitor of radical reactions to prevent the formation of ether peroxides.

Hydroquinone slows down the synthesis of melanin, which is why it is used in whitening creams. Except that this component ultimately refines the skin and kills some of its cells. However, a refined skin is much less resistant to external aggressions. Worse, she is no longer protected.

The use of cosmetics in skin creams, for example for skin lightening, is prohibited in European Union countries, America, Japan and many others.

And depigmentation products, which are banned in many countries but are sold on the black market or on the internet. It can be in the form of creams, soaps, but more and more injections or tablets. The goal with this product is to lighten the skin to change its color.
Skin whitening is practiced all over the world, but mostly black women and Asian women whiten their skin.


Topical corticosteroids, drugs used in the topical treatment of skin conditions, also destroy the skin’s defense system. In addition, they can cause hormonal imbalance and kidney complications.

Sources: PinterPandai, The Guardian, Healthline, Science Direct

Photo credit: Pxhere

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