As a country, we’re obsessed with fair skin. But is applying fairness creams to get lighter skin worth the risks they come with?
The unfortunate myth that fair skin brings you prosperity in your social and economic status, and the resulting insecurities and worries that dominate many people’s self-perception, has given a large consumer base to manufacturers of skin lightening products. Skin lightening lotions are easily available in the Indian market. They vary as per their price tags and their contents. It is very important to know how our skin derives different skin tone and what actually the lotion does to get us a fairer looking skin tone.
How does skin get its colour?
Basically, our skin derives its colour from the cells contained by the dermis and epidermis. Secondly, blood vessels provide us a red or blue tint depending on the level of oxygen. And third, and most important, is the level of melanin. How dark your skin is depends on the level of melanin in the layer of the skin. The greater the production of melanin, the darker the skin tone. Melanin plays an important role as a shield against the sun by protecting it from harmful ultraviolet rays.
How skin lightening creams work
What skin-lightening lotions do is that they hinder the production of melanin. This gives you a fairer looking skin tone in the initial stages of application. But this feature of skin lightening lotions turns out to be dangerous for the health of your skin because of its harmful contents like hydroquinone, mercury and kojic acid.
Hydroquinone and mercury are both toxic and harmful chemicals used in the production of hair dye. When they come in direct contact with ultra violet rays for long periods, they re-oxidize, leading to patchy skin and premature aging. Hydroquinone solidifies collagen fibres. This damages the connective tissues and cause rough and spotty skin. Mercury can damage the nervous system, create kidney problems, organ failure and even hearing impediments.
Kojic acid is also used in the production of skin lightening lotion. Though it is a good anti oxidant, again it works like hydroquinone and mercury by reducing the production of melanin. Research says that over time, prolonged exposure to kojic acid’s radiation can cause cancer.
When considering using a skin lightening lotion, remember that despite what some people in society and commercials may say, you are beautiful and handsome regardless of the colour of your skin. And tons of people and cultures around the world consider darker skin a beauty to be valued. As we learn to love and appreciate ourselves more for who we naturally are, we will find less need for unhealthy measures to alter our appearances. Ask yourself if a lighter colour is worth the potential damage done to your skin by the chemicals in skin lightening creams.
Photograph by Kavitha Shivan, via sxc.hu
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