Some people believe lightening their skins make them more beautiful and hence go into bleaching, whitening or toning.
TUNDE OGUNTOLA in this piece, writes on the health hazards of skin lightening as it is not just all about skin bleaching but also what comes after.
Bleaching is the process of whitening or lightening any material by the use of chemicals. While, skin bleaching basically involves using chemicals to lighten skin tone or provide an even skin complexion by lessening the concentration of melanin in the human skin.
Melanin is responsible for giving black colouring in the human skin. When skin bleaching cream is applied of the body, the effectiveness of the pigment is hindered.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 77 per cent of Nigerian women use skin-lightening products, the world’s highest percentage. That compares with 59 per cent in Togo, and 27 per cent in Senegal. The reasons for this are varied but most people say they use skin-lighteners because they want “white skin” and look more beautiful.
Research shows that it is not only women though who are obsessed with bleaching their skins. Some men too are involved in the practice.
There are various reasons why people bleach their skins to become whiter than they were before which include among others: low self-esteem, self-hate, peer group and quest for beauty, because in many parts of Africa, lighter-skinned women are considered more beautiful and are believed to be more successful and likely to find marriage.
The numbers of people that dive into bleaching are on the increase, the truth is, skin bleaching comes with hazardous health consequences, which include blood cancers such as leukemia and cancers of the liver and kidneys as well as severe skin conditions.
It is true that some persons look good when they apply bleaching cream on their skins, but what about the consequences or adverse effects of making use of bleaching cream. There are many dangers associated with bleaching, be it face whitening or the entire skin bleaching.
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The adverse effects of skin bleaching are: vulnerability to body infections, stretch marks exposure, skin weakening, vulnerability to injuries, exposes the veins, intense irritation, redness, pigmentation, vulnerability to body infections.
The growth in skin bleaching is more in some parts of the world like Asia, Africa and in the Middle East. The high demand of skin lightening cream in those parts of the world is because their population is mainly dark skinned. As a result of this, many want to look like the English and hence lightening up their skin colour.
Most hard-core bleachers use illegal ointments containing toxins like mercury, a metal that blocks production of melanin, which gives the skin its colour, but can also be toxic.
There are a number of materials or chemicals used in skin bleaching. Few among the many are: mercury, hydroquinone, niacinamide, kojic acid, arbutin, lactic acid, gel, shea butter, topical retinoids, and corticosteroids among others.
Mercury is the very dangerous chemical that medical officials found in the skin lightening creams that sickened the women, the dangers of mercury are several. It can damage the kidneys and wreak havoc on the nervous system.
Symptoms of mercury toxicity include: irritability, headaches, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, memory loss, numbness, tingling in the hands, feet or around the lips, insomnia, depression and weight loss.
Hence, if you have experienced any of these symptoms after using an unmarked cream, see your doctor right away.