The beauty and health industry in Pakistan is finding alarming levels of skin diseases as a result of prolonged use of skin whitening creams. Most of these have been found to contain steroids and toxic metals. Media reports are urging quality control to safeguard public health.
Few months back it was reported that Clarins of US was going to focus on Asian consumers for its skin whitening cream. Unfortunately, there is less awareness among Asian consumers of the potentially serious harm that can be caused to skin as a result of many skin whitening creams.
Most skin whitening creams contain hydroquinone that reduces melanin production in skin. In some mainstream products it is used to help reduce the appearance of various types of hyperpigmentation problems like sun spots, age spots and acne markings.
Many studies on skin whitening creams have shown that consistent and widespread use of hydroquinone can result in some pretty serious skin problems, as well as more serious health problems. One researcher found that whilst hydroquinone will initially lighten the skin as it is meant to, over time and with prolonged use an oxidation process can start to take place – due to a reaction between the chemicals and sunlight. This results in the skin becoming darker; leading a person to use even more hydroquinone based products to counter the side effects.
Another serious aspect emerged over time the skin began to appear weaker and thus, the hydroquinone was able to go into the bloodstream more readily, thereby reaching the organs (such as the liver and kidneys) easily.
One study by TJ Kooyers and W. Westerhof on “Toxicology and health risks of hydroquinone in skin lightening” stated “that possible long-term effects like carcinogenesis may be expected.”
US FDA considers hydroquinone a potentially dangerous substance, though many dermatologists feel that the ingredient is safe in small amounts when not used for the purpose of bleaching the skin all over the face, neck and body. EU has banned hydroquinone for over the counter sales.
Due to the health risks, many companies have turned to other ingredients, like arbutin with kojic acid, in place of hydroquinonebut there are no reliable studies on the safety of these, especially arbutin that is a derivative of hydroquinone.
Echoing health concerns, New York Times had earlier highlighted the concern of dermatologists who were noticing side effects from the frequent use of skin whitening creams like Fair & White and other stuff sold by beauty shops and online sites.
Due to attractive profit margins on such products, many unscrupulous suppliers, especially through online sites, have started selling counterfeit versions with undisclosed ingredients – such counterfeit versions have also turned up in stores.
Herbally Radiant has been highlighting the risks from whitening creams, and has found that its natural organic beauty formulations have safer and effective results.