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While Western countries link paleness with bad health, in this part of the world, pale skin is directly connected to prettiness. Asians, particularly Indians, place great importance to light complexion and skin tone, but people conveniently overlook the fact that skin whitening treatments come with their own set of side effects. But is skin whitening treatment safe? Is it worth the price, rather is it worth the risk you take with your health?
What gives our skin its color?
Our skin contains melanocytes which product a pigment called melanin that is responsible for the color of our skin. Some people have high melanin production and their skin color would be darker and those with less melanin will have pale complexion. Genetic composition decides the percentage of melanin in our skin, but overexposure to sun, chemicals, and other factors can trigger excessive production of this pigment. The cosmetic industry happily capitalizes on people’s need to lighten their skin color by marketing lightening pills, lotions, creams, bleaches, soaps, and what not. Cosmetic procedures are also available in the form of chemical peels, microdermabrasion, whitening injections and other methods of exfoliation to remove superficial pigmented skin cells. You can read all about lightening treatments here.
The logic behind all skin lightening treatments is to block tyrosinase activity, which is the enzyme responsible for the production of melanin in the body. The safest lightening and brightening treatmetns are vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin B3 (niacin). Herbs like licorice, fruit acids, AHAs, BHAs, glycolic acid, lactic acid are also safe options when used in measured doses and under medical supervision.
Is Skin Whitening Treatment Safe?
- Hydroquinone is a skin lightening agent albeit a highly controversial one because it has a tendency to form blue-black patches with regular use. It has been banned in Europe and the FDA has proposed to ban it in the US. Hydroquinone may cause cancer, rashes, and even darkening of skin.
- Stop using skin lightening treatments with corticosteroids. Ointments with halobetasol are potent steroids that can cause serious illnesses and cause damage to vital organs with prolonged use. Although illegal without a prescription, some skin lighteners contain steroids so potent that they can suppress your immune system.
- A lot of skin lightening treatment also mercury which is a dangerous metal that can damage your kidneys, liver, and nervous system.
If you wish to lighten your skin tone, do it safely. Above all, wear a good sunscreen to protect your skin against harmful UV rays because excessive melanin and darkening of skin is a defense mechanism by the body to protect your skin.
To conclude, skin lightening treatment is not safe if you undergo the treatment blindly without knowing the ingredients involved. Also, doubly sure that the skin lightening products are safe enough. Most importantly, consult a certified doctor to before undergoing any skin lightening treatment. Check the ingredients used in the treatment and make sure that none of them are banned by the FDA. Also, make sure it is steer clear of steroids and mercury.
So, answering the main question, not all whitening treatments are safe, so consult your doctor before undertaking any treatment.