We all have those childhood friends that no longer carry the faces they were known with in the past. In our society, people’s skin whitens with time and the miracle of creams. The whitened call it toning -plainly lighting, whilst the society refers to it as skin bleaching.
What Is Skin Bleaching?
Skin bleaching is the act of using creams and/or soaps to whiten the skin. These substances contain bleaching agents that act on the skin and make their complexion fairer. What are these agents and how do they work?
Bleaching Agents and How they Work
The human skin has some ‘machines’ called melanocytes which produces the ‘pigment’ called melanin that makes the skin appear dark. These machines are more in black people, hence more pigmentation.
Most of the skin bleaching agents in the form of cream or soap are made up of hydroquinone, mercury, steroids, and/or retinoids. They work in the following mechanisms:
This is a chemical substance found in most skin bleaching creams and soaps. It kills the machines that produce the black pigment making the skin appear fair in complexion.
This is a heavy metal present in most bleaching agents. It reduces pigmentation by stopping the machines from producing the black pigment melanin.
When applied on the skin, steroids reduce blood flow to the skin thereby reducing the number of melanin producing machines and the raw materials used for the production.
Some retinoids are present in the creams to be applied directly to the skin. They scrape the upper layers of the skin making it appear lighter.
Benefits of Skin Bleaching
The skin bleaching creams are produced according to the standard drug laws to be prescribed for people with certain skin coloration disorders diagnosed by dermatologists.
With availability, it diffused to the hands of black people who feel they should look white for cosmetic reasons and social acceptance. From then onwards, bleaching creams and soaps are now available in almost all grocery and cosmetic shops to be bought over-the-counter and used as wished. One can’t help but ask; is this beneficial too?
Effects of Skin Bleaching
When bleaching agents become obtainable in the open market, the ‘I must get whitened by all means’ blacks grabbed them and tried. The result drew – and still draws- many other blacks to buy more, which makes the market lucrative for the producers and increases competition along the production line.
Also Read: Effects of Colorism and Why it Needs to Stop
This passion to excel over opponents pushes manufacturers to produce bleaching agents with banned chemicals or illegally high quantities of legal chemicals as long as the desired result of becoming white is achievable. The effects of these bad manufacturing practices and illegal utilization results in the following health problems:
1. Skin Disorders
Used to whiten the skin, long-term use of bleaching agents bring unsightly negative effects to the skin. Few of these include:
- Blue-black spots/pigmentation on the skin caused by the hydroquinone in the bleaching creams. This is very common on the faces of ‘ƴan bilicin.’
- Although acne can be caused by other factors, it is common among bleaching agents abusers. Steroids in the creams cause these, and they mostly appear on the chest, shoulders, back, and other body parts.
- The topical retinoids and steroids are also proved to cause skin swelling, ulceration, itching, hives, and blisters.
2. Renders the Skin More Prone to Cancer
Melanin, the pigment responsible for our color protects the body from the deleterious effects of ultraviolet rays produced by the sunlight which could otherwise cause skin cancer. The western world has lower sun exposure and its populace have lower melanin relative to the black world.
Nature is kind, it gives every human the ability to produce melanin according to his degree of exposure (the reason why ajebutters mostly appear lighter than ajepakos) and the body’s ability to withstand the UV rays. When one uses bleaching agents to reduce melanin production, he is directly exposing himself to the UV rays his body might not withstand, which makes one prone to skin cancer.
3. Mercury Poisoning
As a heavy metal, the mercury in bleaching creams diffuse through the skin into the body, circulate, and with time causes devastating effects like:
- High blood pressure
- Shaky hands and feet
- Memory loss
- kidney failure
3. Kidney Failure
Of the severe effects of mercury poisoning is nephrotic syndrome. Mercury damages the vessels that circulate blood in the kidney during urine formation which results in the passing of proteins that should remain in the body through the urine and subsequent kidney failure.
4. Fishy Smell
Immoderate use of hydroquinone based bleaching creams and soaps is found to cause fishy smelling sweat and urine (not vaginal secretion, as it is caused by an entirely different factor) in some people. We all have a friend like that huh?
Do not stigmatize, share this article with them instead.
Both sides of the coin have been exposed. Now it remains for the reader to choose which one is more profitable and invest in.
Is skin bleaching worth it?
Keep natural, stay healthy!