Skin Whitening Creams: The Pros and the (Ugly) Cons

Skin Whitening Creams

Skin whitening creams can be a boon for your beauty as they can lead to fairer, healthier- and almost flawless-looking skin in several days up to a couple of weeks. As an added bonus, skin lightening products also happen to lighten up facial hair. But these products have their share of downsides too, such as chemical side effects and allergies. Here are some of the pros of skin whitening creams and the ugly cons.

Skin Whitening Creams: The Pros

Some of the benefits of using skin lightening products got us hooked:

Glowing Skin at Your Fingertips

One instant effect of skin whitening creams is the much-sought-after glowing effect. Your skin will look fairer, healthier, and more radiant after several applications of a skin lightening product. Another pro of skin whitening creams is that they can help get rid of or reduce suntan and solar spots, and all of these without harsh chemical exfoliation.

Lighter Skin Tone

With a skin whitening cream, you can get a lighter skin tone in just a week or two with consistent use. This product is best used on elbows, knees, armpits (does Acanthosis nigricans ring a bell?) and other darkish areas if you want to even your skin tone. Skin whiteners also work wonders on brown spots, blemishes, freckles, and skin discoloration. Some users claim that they no longer need to use filters on their cameras for that flawless skin effect after using such products.

Gentle Exfoliation

Skin lightening creams can also act as a gentle exfoliator for your skin because some of the ingredients boost skin cell turnover while removing dead skin cells, which leads to newer and fresher looking skin in just a few days. Skin cellular turnover gets slower as we age, from 3-5 days when we were babies to 28-45 days when we hit our thirties. Slower cellular turnover means sagging and dull-looking skin, which can visibly age your skin.

Skin Whitening Creams: The Ugly Cons

If a product is too good to be true, it probably is. This simple truth holds water for most skin lightening products as well. Here are some of the cons of skin whitening creams:

Cancer Risk & Skin Irritation

The key ingredient in most skin whitening products is hydroquinone, which is the active ingredient in bleach. While hydroquinone is a relatively cheap compound and a very effective one at slowing down your skin’s melanin production, it has its share of nasty side-effects.

In Europe, some states have outlawed the ingredient altogether for causing leukemia and skin cancer in animal studies. It can also act as a skin irritant if the concentration goes beyond 4%. Most skin whitening products contain concentrations of 2%, but you could get 4% concentrations or higher if you get the product on prescription.

Sun Sensitivity & Saggy Skin

Another commonly used harmful ingredient is tretinoin. This ingredient makes the skin more sensitive to UV rays and may dry out the skin. It is best to use sunscreen or stay away from the Sun if you’re using a skin lightening cream that contains this ingredient. What’s more, when mixed with hydroquinone, tretinoin may deplete your skin’s collagen stores leading to saggy, more wrinkled skin. Tretinoin may hide under the name of Renova, Retinol, or Retin-A on products’ labels.

High Toxicity

Mercury can be another huge health hazard in skin lightening creams. Although it has been banned in North America, it is still widely used in Asian beauty products. So, make sure that your K-beauty arsenal doesn’t contain this extremely toxic ingredient. Mercury can easily be absorbed through the skin and reach the nervous system. It is so toxic that it can damage the brain and kidneys even in unborn children if their mothers use mercury-based topical products. Mercury sometimes goes by the name of cinnabar or calomel in skin lighteners.

Skin Allergies

Some people may be allergic to some of the active ingredients in skin lighteners and risk having a nasty allergic reaction. So, before you use any of these products, test the lightener by applying a small amount to a small area of the skin. If there is any burning sensation, irritation, or ugly discoloration, rinse off the product and don’t use it on your face or other larger areas.

Also, you may develop a skin allergy with prolonged use of the product or if you use it on the entire body even though you may not have any negative reaction during the initial allergy patch test.

If the side effects of a skin lightener are severe, such as persistent allergies, skin or organ damage, and even cancer, you can get compensation for any damages including medical expenses and lost wages spurred by your treatment under most countries’ product liability laws. There are numerous resources, like this website, that can put you in contact with a drug injury lawyer for a free consultation.

To Sum Up

While skin whitening creams might sound like a good initial investment, just like any other product we introduce our bodies to, we have to be very diligent in how much we come to rely on them, seeing what devastating consequences they can bring to our long-term health and well-being.


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