Skin bleaching is a growing trend among Jamaicans and people worldwide. Otherwise known as skin whitening or skin lightening, bleaching of one’s skin is a practice of using chemical substances in an attempt to lighten the skin tone by reducing the concentration of melanin. Several chemicals have been shown to be effective in skin whitening. However, these chemicals have also proven to be highly dangerous to the user. Before we venture into the dangers of skin bleaching, let us identify the chemicals in these dangerous products. Some of these chemicals include Arsenic, Mercury, Hydroquinone and Alpha Hydroxy Acids just to name a few.
Skin bleaching creams which contain mercury should not be used for long periods of time. Mercury can cause poisoning, and when it is among other ingredients found in creams, it can start to accumulate within the cells of the body. Too much mercury exposure, or poisoning, can lead to liver damage and kidney failure. Other harmful effects of skin bleaching include, permanent skin bleaching, thinning of skin, uneven colour loss leading to a blotchy appearance, redness and intense irritation.
The colour of our skin is determined by three factors. Firstly, the cells contained within the dermis and epidermis provides a natural yellow, white colour. Secondly, superficial blood vessels provide a blue or red tint determined by oxygen content. Finally, melanin produced by melanocytes is scattered within the basal layer of the skin. It is the melanin which determines how dark a person’s skin is; more melanin production results in a darker hue. Melanin plays a major protective role. It is the skins own natural protection from the harmful ultra violet rays of the sun. Without melanin there is a high risk of developing skin cancer.
So you can see that the process of bleaching the skin damages the natural state of the skin. But why continue to indulge in this trend knowing the harmful effects? Reggae Times will go deeper into the psychological connection associated with this skin bleaching pandemic in next week’s issue.