The skin whitening industry is a multibillion-dollar industry with little regulation that has preyed on people of colour for years. It all comes down to how skin colour is viewed in society narrowing it down to racism and colourism. Many communities consider lighter skin to be a sign of higher class and more beautiful than dark skin hence the high demand for products that make the skin to be lighter. The biggest markets for these products are among the African and Asian communities and the products which come in the form of creams, soaps, pills and even injections are made by some of the largest cosmetic companies in the world. These products are the cause of health nightmares that many users don’t know about. Here are some gruesome facts you should know about skin bleaching.
There is no medical justification for the procedure
Scar and dark spot removal are the main reason why most people go for skin whitening creams to allegedly remove all the blemishes on the skin. Regular creams and normal skin regeneration works well in removing freckles and scars on the skin and doesn’t need the help of any melanin-reducing cream. There is absolutely no reason why darker skin colour is harmful to a person. That is why skin whitening is an exclusively cosmetic industry and has nothing to do with life-saving medicine.
Most of the products don’t work
Sad as it may sound, there are serious cases of fraud in the skin whitening industry that receive very little attention. For most people in the developing world, the products that are sold as skin whitening creams are nothing more than a concoction of lemon, orange, carrot and other compounds that have no scientific evidence of reducing melanin concentration. As a result, most of the products are just trial and error and whatever doesn’t hurt the users is just written off with no lawsuits filed and they just move on to the next possible solution. Most of the Victims are in India, Malaysia, the Philippines and Africa and the poorest are the worst affected.
It is never permanent
Your skin has three layers responsible for protecting you against UV rays while also performing other important body functions. The part where most dark spots are visible is called the dermis and it has the ability to renew itself. The bleaching effect, therefore, reduces melanin but that only lasts for some time before the skin renews its melanin levels. It is, therefore, unnecessary to bleach your skin unless you plan on using those harmful products forever. The sad part is that overusing bleaching agents on the skin will cause sections or all of it to become permanently white which is a situation you don’t want.
The industry is highly racist
Recent condemnation of skin whitening creams has resulted in Unilever changing the name of one of their oldest products formerly known as White $Lovely. The change in name came only after thorough criticism of the skin whitening cream and body lotion industry which has been accused for years as being racist. People of Asian and African descent are the primary target of these products which are advertised as the key to getting a lighter or whiter complexion which is apparently more beautiful. The companies make billions off racial and colourist ideals and only end up promoting two of the deepest vices in these societies.
Most of the chemicals and procedures are deadly
Regulations in the US, UK and the EU prohibit the inclusion of hydroquinone, corticosteroids and mercury in skin lightening products. Actually, the use of any active pharmaceutical ingredient renders most of these products illegal as they stop being cosmetics. However, most of the ingredients bought off the counter contain most if not all of these chemicals. Their side effects range from causing skin cancer, thinning and exposure of blood vessels to kidney and liver damage. The chemicals are actually harmful to potential and pregnant mothers as well. Some cosmetic procedures done in clinics to bleach skin such as butt whitening can also be deadly when the procedures expose the body to bacterial infection.
The biggest beneficiaries are large cosmetics companies
Most of the products being sold for skin lightening/whitening are produced in countries that haven’t enacted laws against the use of active melanin inhibiting chemicals in cosmetics. The biggest manufacturers of these products are Unilever, Proctor $ Gamble and L’Oreal which are some of the biggest in the world.
Unilever is most heavily criticized because its Dove and Vaseline subsidiaries enjoy huge sales of these products in India, Malaysia, China and the Philippines. Being large brands, many people end up trusting them and buying their products which is why the very names make the same contraband products that find their way into the EU and the UK where these products are banned. It is a super-sneaky industry where the biggest companies still prey on the vulnerable.
The industry is not shutting down any time soon
In 2017, The Guardian released a publication that condemned the three aforementioned companies for their huge marketing budgets for skin bleaching products. In 2017, the WHO estimated that 40% of women were using skin whitening products in China, 60% in India and a horrific 77% in Nigeria. The industry which was projected to be worth at least $10 billion in 2015 without including the black market has probably doubled due to the expansion of the middle class in the countries that use these products.
The Black market is a global problem
The UK had to set up a whole task force to go through households and some stores in communities of colour looking for creams, lotions and other products that may contain Hydroquinone and mercury as well as steroids. The same has happened in the EU and now most African countries have also set up trading standard taskforces to flush out these products. There is little progress though because the demand for these products is increasing globally and the manufacturers are rarely held to account.
The products are widely endorsed by celebrities
In India, the famous actor Shahid Kapur is the face that advertises most of Unilever’s skin whitening products for men. Emma Watson is another big name in Hollywood that advertises a range of skin whitening products. The reason for the big names behind these products is the big companies that produce them investing heavily in marketing. It then becomes a global problem as everyone that sees the adverts hopes to lay their hands on these products even when they are illegal in their countries.
Skin bleaching can cause permanent skin discolouration
The side effects of bleaching your skin are always immediate. The best case scenario is when all you have to do is cover the bleached part of your skin with clothing so that sun rays don’t ruin it. The worst-case scenario is cancer, liver damage and kidney failure as stated above. Many people that continue using these products for a long time suffer a condition called ochronosis. It leaves a part of your skin with patches of different colours which produces the exact opposite of the intended purpose of the bleaching products.