Skin whitening information and products

In the skin, there is a pigment known as melanin. The amount of melanin in the skin determines the color of the skin. The more the melanin, the darker the skin tone will be. Skin whitening serums and creams work in reducing this pigment in order to brighten the skin tone.

Skin lightening products come in many variations but the basic work is the same. You can spot bleaching creams, fading creams and skin whiteners and brighteners in stores. People use these creams and serums in order to treat problems related to skin. Common skin problems are acne scars, age spots and discoloration of the skin caused by hormones. They work best to lighten natural dark skin.

People who look into buying skin lightening products may feel being at risk. Heavy doses of the wrong chemicals can lead to causing skin problems and sometimes even skin cancer. It is easy to understand that anything which is not natural, can cause skin damage. When buying a new product, make sure you read the label and understand the ingredients before using a skin lightening product.

How is Skin Color Determined?

The color of the skin is, of course, genetic. The amount of melanin in the skin determines the skin tone. Melanin is a pigment which comes from melanocytes which are cells specializing in pigmentation. A darker skin tone means more melanin.

Although, your skin tone is inherited, certain environmental factors can also change your skin tone with time. The exposure to sunlight, hormonal imbalances, and chemical exposure of some kind and even skin damage can have a significant impact on melanin production. Hence, changing the skin tone.

Some temporary skin color changes will go back to normal while others will take time. Tans from the sun for example will fade over time. But this will depend on the reduction of sunlight exposure overall. Other discoloration of the skin caused with age, tends to become more permanent.

What is Skin Whitening?

Skin bleaching is used to treat discoloration and smooth the skin tone. It is a cosmetic treatment which contains bleaching agents, therefore, precautions needs to be taken. The effect, however, is prominent. Bleaching creams are easily accessible in stores, you can buy them over the counter and through a prescription by a dermatologist.

The main active ingredient in skin bleachers is mercury. People have been known to apply bleaching creams on their entire bodies in order to change their complexion entirely. This can very risky! The mercury can cause poisoning.

Mercury is highly risky as it can cause neurological, psychiatric, and even kidney problems. During a pregnancy, a woman who uses mercury agents can pass it on her unborn child. Keeping these dangers in mind, products which contain active mercury are banned across the United States of America. Although, products which are produced outside the US can still contain mercury. Make sure that whatever product you buy, you look at the ingredients with caution.

Do Skin Lighteners Work?

A combination of active ingredients helps in reducing the melanin amount in the area of the skin where the skin lightener is applied. These skin lighteners will sometimes contain a single active ingredient or sometimes a combination. The most popular ingredient which is commonly sold over counters is hydroquinone.

Hydroquinone is a chemical which is FDA regulated in the U.S. and therefore, safe to use. Products sold over the counter will contain about 2% of hydroquinone but a dermatologist can prescribe from 4% to 6% of the chemical. It is essential that if you must use a product that contains hydroquinone, you follow the doctor’s directions with care.

There are other skin lighteners which you can choose from. Some contain drugs while others have natural ingredients. The skin lighteners that contain drugs have retinoic acid and steroids. Both come from Vitamin A which is an active ingredient. The natural ingredient is commonly kojic acid. This is a compound which comes from a fungus and arbutin. This is a compound which can be found in various plants.

Risk Associated with Using Skin Lighteners

The most significant risk associated with using skin lightening cream is the impending exposure to mercury. A study has shown that 1 out of every 4 skin lightening cream contains mercury. These creams are normally manufactured in Asia and sold outside the U.S. as they are banned there.

Effects of skin whitening

Other risks of using skin lightening creams are:

  1. Premature ageing of skin due to excessive usage of skin whitening creams.
  2. Increased risk of skin cancer caused by sun exposure if skin whitening creams are used for a long time. Using a sunscreen along with a skin lightening cream is essential for reducing this risk.
  3. The use of steroids has many side effects. When they are present in skin lighteners, the risk for skin thinning, skin infections, acne and poor wound healing is common.
  4. Furthermore, when steroids are applied to a larger skin area, the body is exposed to many health related problems. Steroids get absorbed in the body.
  5. The excessive use of hydroquinone will cause undesirable discoloration of the skin in areas where it looks bad.
  6. The bleaching agents present in lightening creams may cause allergic reactions to the skin and irritation.

Important Precautions for Skin Lightening Creams

The most important thing is to speak to your doctor before using any skin lightening cream or product. Each product will have different precautions and instructions, so make sure you know what you are doing. Ensure that there is no mercury in the product that you have planned to use. Sometimes, mercury is mentioned under different names like mercurous, calomel, and mercurio. Look for these different names as well to stay safe.

When you are buying an over the counter product, hydroquinone acid should only be 2% and no more than that. In cases where the product does mention hydroquinone but does not mention the quantity, do not automatically assume that it is safe to use. The labels are often inaccurate.

If in doubt, always ask questions. The skin whitening product you are considering, may be unsafe in many ways. Make sure you clear your confusions by asking the pharmacist or the dermatologist. Your dermatologist may also suggest alternative options for skin lightening treatments like laser treatments, microdermabrasion and chemical peels for this purpose.