The use of skin lightening or skin bleaching creams is fuelled by the believe that women with light skin tones have a better life—better grades, better boyfriends, better job opportunities. The general view is that these women are treated better by society in every way. What is not spoken about and publicised is the effect of the cream on the health and skin of the individual.
Skin lightening or bleaching is defined as the practice of using chemical substances in an attempt to lighten skin tone or provide an even skin complexion by lessening or inhibiting the concentration of melanin. Some creams contain hydroquinone and mercury which has been found to have adverse effect on the skin and health of the user. Though the use of both chemicals has been banned in many countries, buying from the internet and some unregulated stores are very common.
The long term effect of hydroquinone and mercury on the skin includes:
- permanent skin bleaching and thinning of skin
- uneven colour loss, leading to a blotchy appearance
- redness, rashes and scarring
- Kidney damage
- Skin cancer
A ban on the use of skin lightening creams by the government will help to eradicate the use of these creams. Secondly, educating and providing information of the effect of these chemicals might help to reduce the use of the creams. Another control could be the compulsory labelling of all products clearly stating the ingredients in it and making the packaging less attractive.
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