The practice of skin bleaching, which is commonly accepted in society, dates back to 200 BCE. Then, the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans used honey with olive oil to lighten their skin.
Skin bleaching is a cosmetic procedure that is done to lighten the dark areas of skin or achieve a lighter complexion.
The practice of skin bleaching can also be done by applying products to lighten dark areas of the skin or improve the appearance of birthmarks and melasma (dark patches).
Skin bleaching products include soaps, pills, creams, and treatments like chemical peels and laser therapy that are purposely done to lighten up the skin.
How Does Skin Bleaching Work?
Skin bleaching works by reducing the production of melanin in the skin. Melanin is the pigment responsible for giving the skin its colour and helps protect it from the sun.
The level of melanin your skin has is determined by your genetic makeup. People with dark skin complexion have more melanin.
Whenever a skin bleaching product is applied to the skin, it decreases the number of melanocytes in your skin which can result in lighter skin. Most times, people apply skin bleaching products to their entire body to change their complexion, and this is very risky.
Health Effects Of Bleaching Skin
There are a few negative side effects associated with skin bleaching. Here are some of them:
1. Can result in mercury poisoning
Some skin-bleaching products contain mercury which is harmful to the body. Mercury is a toxic agent that can cause psychiatric and neurological disorders.
A 2014 study found in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology confirmed the presence of mercury in skin-bleaching products.
2. Can cause dermatitis
Dermatitis is a general term that describes several skin irritations that can be caused by allergies, genetics, infections, and an overactive immune system. It can cause the skin to become itchy and dry, or it might cause the skin to ooze or blister.
The symptoms include swelling, skin ulcers, blisters, and itching. Studies have shown that the use of skin bleaching products can cause dermatitis.
A 2009 study suggested that dermatitis is associated with the use of skin bleaching products.
3. Can result in nephrotic syndrome
Exposure of the skin to bleaching products can result in a kidney disorder known as nephrotic syndrome. Nephrotic syndrome is a condition that causes the body to pass out excess protein with urine.
In most cases, it is caused by damage to the vessels in the kidney that is responsible for the filtration of waste and excess water from your body.
A 2019 study showed that long-term use of skin bleaching products containing mercury can result in nephrotic syndrome.
4. Can cause body odour
A 2008 study discovered that prolonged exposure of the skin to bleaching products containing hydroquinone could give the body a distinctive bad odour, resembling the smell of a decaying fish.
This bad odor is due to the discharge of a chemical called trimethylamine, which can be found in saliva, vaginal, sweat, and urine secretions.
5. Can cause steroid acne
Skin bleaching products containing corticosteroids can cause steroid acne, which affects the chest, back, arms, and other parts of the body. Symptoms include blackheads and whiteheads, red bumps, and acne scars.
6. Can lead to exogenous ochronosis
Exogenous ochronosis (EO) is a skin disorder that is characterized by blue-black pigmentation resulting from a long-term application of skin-lightening creams.
This condition usually occurs when there is a complication due to long-term use of skin bleaching creams that contain hydroquinone, phenol or resorcinol.
Skin bleaching can cause a lot of havoc to the human body, as discussed in the article. It reduces the production of melatonin which gives the skin its colour and protects the skin from ultraviolet rays from the sun. A reduction in the production of melatonin can also cause skin cancer. Reading the above negative health effects of bleaching skin should warn you about this habit.