By way of introduction, it deserves mention that the skin is the
largest organ in the human body, serving as a natural mirror that
reflects the overall health status of an individual. Undoubtedly, a
healthy-looking skin is not something anyone wants to trade off or
sacrifice. However, in a failed bid to enhance their skin beauty,
many have ended up falling victim of several diseases that only
leave their skin worse and even jeopardize their lives. Arguably, the
beauty and cosmetic industry has enjoyed unprecedented attention
and patronage in recent times to the extent that a shocking
statistic revealed that about 75% of Nigerian women make use of
one skin-lightening product or the other. Unfortunately, some of
these products contain harmful chemicals like hydroquinone
which, although notable for its rapid bleaching abilities has also
been implicated in organ damage as well as skin cancer. In the
end, it does more harm than good when abused or used against
the doctor’s prescription. No wonder the use of hydroquinone in
skin lighteners has been banned across Europe and several other
countries including Australia and Japan.
Highlighted below are some hazards you are probably exposing
yourself to when you bleach your skin.
1. Premature ageing
Hydroquinone- and mercury-containing skin products work by
blocking melanin production by the basal layer of the epidermis of
the skin. Since melanin is the pigment responsible for the dark
colour of the skin, such skin becomes lighter. With prolonged use,
however, these chemicals react with ultraviolet rays, become
oxidized and then cause unsightly pigmentations on the skin.
Furthermore, hydroquinone may disrupt the collagen fibres which
constitute the connective tissue of the skin and the outcome is a
spotty, wrinkled skin.
2. Skin Cancer
It is a well-known fact that the melanin pigment of the black skin
protects against the harmful carcinogenic effects of ultraviolet
radiation from the sun and this explains why black people have a
lower risk of skin cancer than the whites. However, individuals that
bleach their black skin colour have lost the privilege of this
protection and consequently expose themselves to skin cancer. In
addition, the mercury content of many bleaching creams has also
been shown to be carcinogenic.
3. Proneness to skin injuries
It is a well-known fact that many of the available skin lighteners
contain steroids, the prolonged use of which hampers skin health
and leads to skin atrophy, a condition in which skin thickness is
appreciably reduced. Such light-skinned individuals are more prone
to skin injuries such as bruises, abrasions and cuts. Striae
(abnormal streaks or lines) are often noticed on bleached skin and
believe me, they are not good to look at.
4. Damage to internal organs
Continued use of those skin-lightening creams may not be in the
best interest of your internal organs especially your kidneys, liver
and brain. For instance, heavy metals including mercury are
important causes of kidney injury and failure. In large doses, the
liver and brain may not be spared as well.
5. Mercury poisoning
There is such a condition as mercury intoxication or poisoning. It
can result from mercury inhalation, ingestion, injection or
absorption through the skin. The bad news is that if your bleaching
cream contains high levels of mercury, you are setting yourself up
for mercury poisoning. More unfortunate is the fact that mercury
poisoning has some fatal effects on the brain that are quite
difficult to reverse such as tremors, ataxia (loss of balance or
coordination), dysarthria (inability to articulate words) and
numbness or tingling sensation on the extremities.
It is in recognition of these unpleasant problems that
the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that everyone
be happy with the colour of their skin.