It’s widely speculated that musicians Lil Kim, Keri Hilson, and Rihanna have altered the dark tones of their skin by applying products designed to lighten the epidermis. And, the general population are now following their lead, as the skin-lightening industry is expected to grow $8.9 billion by 2027, a growth of $4.1 billion in just a decade. However, many individuals are choosing to lighten their skin’s natural color with unsafe and illegal products that are not fit for purpose.

Why are people opting for fair skin?

For centuries, fair skin has been considered beautiful and something to strive for. The Telegraph even reports that men prefer women with fair skin, due to it making them appear more innocent and pure. Meanwhile, Beyoncé’s father has previously spoken out on the issue, stating that his daughter’s acceptance in the music industry is due to her having light colored skin. This theory is shared in Nigeria, where fair skinned women are more likely to have successful careers in industries such as marketing, sales, and TV than darker-skinned women.

Changing the skin’s appearance

Cosmetics which alter the shade of the epidermis will lighten marks, such as birthmarks, large blemishes, and melasma patches that don’t match the tone of the rest of the epidermis. Where these conditions are present, creams which reduce the skin’s pigmentation will be prescribed by a medical professional, who will also stipulate strict guidelines about how and when they should be used. However, the beauty industry has tapped into the rest of the nation’s desire to minimize the dark tone of their skin, and now both legal and illegal creams and serums designed to tweak the skin’s appearance are easy to purchase.

Harmful ingredients found in popular products

Illegal products which claim they can soften and lighten the dark undertones in your skin can be found on almost every high street. These products are classed as being against the law because they contain ingredients which have been deemed unsafe to use. In the UK, the chemicals hydroquinone and mercury are prohibited from being used in such products, as are corticosteroids. In comparison, products in the US can contain up to 2% hydroquinone, while doctors have the authority to prescribe it in doses of between 4 and 6%.Elsewhere in the world, the EU has banned hydroquinone altogether, and Kenya has put a stop to hydroquinone, mercury, and hydrogen peroxide being added to their cosmetics.

Women Applying Cream in Mirror

Skin bleaching risks

Hydroquinone has been deemed unsafe to use due to its toxicity having the potential to damage the DNA structure of the skin’s cells. There’s also evidence to support its link with cancer. Hydroquinone can negatively impact the way your skin reacts to the rays omitted from the sun. This can make you more susceptible to burning and, in turn, your chances of going on to develop skin cancer are greater.

Mercury is also considered a life-threatening ingredient, and should be avoided as much as possible. The WHO lists a number of health concerns which are directly connected with mercury exposure, with the most serious including kidney damage, brain and nerve damage. Meanwhile, corticosteroids are a type of steroid traditionally found in creams used to treat eczema. When prescribed for this purpose and used as directed, they can effectively treat the symptoms of eczema and similar skin complaints. However, they thin the skin, have links to cancer, and can damage the epidermis, so they should be avoided at all other times.

It’s not just creams containing illegal ingredients which can cause harmful side effects. The NHS reports that even creams containing approved ingredients can cause redness, irritation, itching, stinging, and flaky skin. This is particularly the case when these products are misused. It’s therefore essential that when using these skin care items, you use them only as directed.

A safe approach to changing your skin

To ensure that you’re lightening the tone of your skin in a safe way, you should avoid buying products online, as many of these are imported and will contain the banned ingredients listed above. It’s also advisable to speak to a professional skin doctor before commencing any treatment which changes your skin’s shade, as they’ll be able to advise the best treatment for your circumstances. What’s more, they may even advise that alternative methods, such as laser treatment or a skin peel will be better for you.

Skin lightening is a growing trend worldwide. But, with so many illegal products on the market, millions of individuals are putting their health at risk. It’s therefore crucial that you educate yourself before applying any product designed to change the shade of your skin, in addition to seeking professional advice.