Is Skin Lightening Dangerous?

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Skin lightening practices have seen a huge increase in interest in the last few years, but why have they become so important and are they dangerous?

Skincare has become the main focus of the beauty industry, and 30 percent of it involves the use of skin lightening products. Asian countries lead the trend, where skin lightening is linked to prosperity and youth, followed by the U.S. Interestingly, however, skin lightening products in the West are often marketed differently to consumers, with a focus made on anti-ageing practices, such as the removal of age spots which can make a person look older.

There are clearly many reasons why people want to lighten their skin. Sometimes the desire is more about gaining a luminous complexion and even tone rather than extreme lightening. However, all these needs often get lumped together under the same skin lightening category, with many of the products promising to help people achieve their goals containing dangerous chemicals that are too harsh for the skin.

The Ban Of Hydroquinone

Countries such as Ghana and Australia have banned hydroquinone as this ingredient in many chemical skin lightening products has been linked to harmful conditions, such as the abnormal functioning of the adrenal glands, cancer (which was found during studies of this toxin on rodents), and ochronosis. This is where the skin becomes thicker and erupts in blue-black patches that cannot be cured.

In countries like the Ivory Coast, chemical skin bleaching has been banned because of its health risks, but this has led some people to buy them on the black market or from sellers on the street. This increases the risk because people do not know what has been put in the creams as many don't even contain labels.

Even if you are not purchasing skin lightening products off the street, you should still be wary of what's in the ones you see in physical stores or online. Always read the labels and bear in mind that skin lightening products can be marketed as other things that don't appear to be harmful at all, such as skin brighteners, but they can still contain harmful ingredients.

Why Natural Is Best

The fear of chemicals in skin lightening creams doesn't mean that you should completely avoid all products. You just need to choose healthier creams. Natural-based creams that contain botanicals are recommended, even more than skincare treatments such as chemical peels because they don't have side-effects such as reddening or flaking of the skin. You use these products daily to nourish your skin to its healthiest pigment-free state.

Healthy, Effective Ingredients in Skin-Lightening Products

What are the things you should look for in a natural skin-lightening product that make it effective at eliminating pigmentation?

  • It should block melanin. Look for ingredients like kojic acid, which is created during the process of malting rice fermentation. It blocks the skin cells' ability to create melanin that shows up as pigment on the surface of skin. Another melanin inhibitor is licorice. It contains glabridin, an ingredient that gets rid of pigmentation as well as inflamed skin.
  • It should contain antioxidants. Antioxidants keep the skin healthy by fighting free radicals that cause sun damage. It's important to remember that UV exposure is the leading cause of skin discoloration because it boosts the skin's production of melanin. By targeting those free radicals with antioxidants, you ensure a healthier, brighter complexion. Bilberry is an example of a natural skin-lightening ingredient that contains antioxidants, known as tannins. Another skin-brightening antioxidant is Vitamin C (sometimes referred to on products as ascorbic acid). It is a natural skin lightening ingredient and boosts the skin's production of collagen so that it can regain its youthful elasticity.

Brighter and healthier skin can be achieved with skin-lightening products, however these need to contain natural ingredients in order to eradicate pigmentation without harming the skin. By avoiding chemical skin lighteners, you get the gorgeous skin you've always dreamed of without putting your health in danger.  

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