Over the years, Africans and more specifically Ghanaians, Togolese and Nigerians have taken skin bleaching to an unprecedented new level. In some circles not having a light complexion is seen as an aberration as such many compulsively join the band wagon to avoid been ostracized or tagged with unfriendly memes.
What is skin bleaching?
Skin Bleaching or whitening refers to a deliberate interference with the natural functions of melanin (the pigment in the body that give the skin its color) by the use of substances mainly cream and soaps that tones and lighten skin color.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 77 percent of Nigerian women use skin-lightening / bleaching products, the world’s highest percentage. To put it in clear terms Nigeria is the world’s headquarters of Skin bleaching.
Unfortunately, some of those using these products do not even know they are using substances that could whiten or tone their complexion. This is further complicated by the poor regulatory system in the country which allows the importation of all sorts of mislabeled and deadly cosmetics into the country with little or no oversight.
The false conception that light skinned women are more beautiful or successful has led many into the bleaching trap which has now become an obsession.
This piece became a necessary because of the increasing number of men and more especially women that are ending up in the intensive care units as a result of major medical complications arising from skin toning products.
There are many dangers associated with the use of skin whitening agents most which contain hydroquinone, corticosteroids or mercury these includes
- Kidney Damage
Many skin whitening products contain mercury. The long term accumulation of mercury in the body according to the World health organization (WHO), results in damage to the kidney.
- Liver Damage
Many skin toning / breaching products contain Hydroquinone a toxic chemical used in the manufacturing of rubber. This chemical is linked with the causation of adrenal dysfunction and liver diseases.
- Nerve Damage
Another toxic effect of mercury containing bleaching products is their effect on the nerve. The long term use of mercury containing cream/soaps causes peripheral neuropathy.
- Birth Defects
Many expectant mothers put their unborn babies at great risk by their unrepentant use of bleaching products.
Substances such as mercury a component of many whitening cream and soaps interfere with the development of the brain of the unborn child and is extensively distributed in breast milk resulting in encephalopathy in many Children.
Ochronosis is a condition that results in the blue-black darkening of the skin as a result of the deposits of yellow-blue banana shaped pigments in the dermis usually induced by hydroquinone another component many bleaching products. The treatment of this condition is complicated and may sometimes require laser or surgical peeling.
- 6. Cancer
Many skin bleaching agent contain substances that affect the physiology of the human body particularly cell function, one of these substances is hydroquinone which has been linked to cell mutation and cancer.
A study published in the journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and venereology concluded that the risks of long-term effects such cancer can no longer be ignored based on recent evidence of the potential risks, which are higher than previously assumed.
- Cushings Syndrome
Corticosteroid in small quantities are relatively innocuous. However in high doses some steroids can alter hormonal balance and can sometime lead to a condition known as Cushing’s syndrome which exacerbates the symptoms of diabetes
- Hypertension and Permanent Stretch Marks
The Long-term use of whitening creams containing topical steroids has been linked to hypertension and other side effect, like stretch marks which are most times permanent. A study published in the journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reported that complications arising from the use of skin lightening products represents a significant health problem among Africans and majority of these problems are traceable to clobetasol and hydroquinone.
Due to increasing public health awareness, many unscrupulous manufacturers of skin toning / whitening products have resulted to either mislabeling their products or completely omitting specific ingredients from their product information labels. Even though the actual product still contain those substances, as such if you are unsure about the composition of your cream / soap simply switch to baby products until you can find a safe alternative.
Trading your kidney and liver just to end up with a temporary white skin is a disaster!
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