The phenomenon of skin whitening is not a new one. It goes back many centuries in both Asia and Europe. In medieval times white skin was an elitist must-have as it proved beyond a doubt that you weren’t one of the so-called lower classes who had to toil in the fields. And the whiter, the better. Of course, the ceruse paste medieval women used to achieve their vase-like complexions contained gobs of lead-white which, over time, lead to all types of odious health conditions like hearing loss, seizures (the ladies were said to become “hysterical”), vomiting, fatigue, infertility and high blood pressure. The ladies of the day were also encouraged to use mercury on their faces as it was said to make the skin soft and supple. What they didn’t know was that the mercury was also going to cause vision problems, balance problems, hearing loss, tremors, insomnia and much more.
Ignorance is Not Bliss. In Fact, it Can Kill You
So why are we telling you this? Because whitening has returned with a vengeance and many of the same issues that befell ladies of the Elizabethan court are now befalling women in Mombasa, Delhi, Bangkok, and Beijing. Below we’re going to take a look at the top 5 reasons you should just say “no” to bleaching your skin.
- Skin cancer – Let’s get right to the point here shall we? The number one reason to avoid any type of bleaching or whitening product is that you increase your risk of cancer by using them. Your body has natural defense mechanisms built right in that helps it cope with the sun’s harmful UV radiation. One of those defense mechanisms is melanin. Bleaching or otherwise whitening your skin blocks the production of this important chemical and greatly increases your risk of developing skin cancer.
- Early Aging – Skin whiteners “work” by blocking the production of melanin. But melanin, as we touched on above, is central to the body’s ability to protect itself from environmental dangers like UV light. When the skin is deprived of melanin and instead saturated by the blocking compounds in the whitener, the skin can become blotchy and physically rough to the touch. In addition, another frequently used ingredient in skin whiteners is hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is known to disrupt collagen fibers in the skin, which in turn leads to accelerated decrepitude (otherwise known as early or premature aging) wrinkles and a spotty, dried out appearance.
- Weakening of the skin – Many whiteners contain corticosteroids. The repeated use of these products can lead to a reduction in skin thickness. While the term “thin-skinned” is typically used to refer to someone who is overly sensitive to perceived slights, in this case, people whose body has been physically thinned by repeated exposure to steroids are more susceptible to cuts, scrapes, bruises and a rash of other injuries.
- Mercury poisoning – Recently, public health officials in various countries conducting random tests on whitening products discovered to their horror that some actually contained non-organic mercury in potentially hazardous quantities. It’s believed the mercury was introduced on purpose to help give these products an edge over the competition. Instead what’s happened is that perhaps millions of women have been exposed to the many dangers of mercury poisoning which, as we outlined above, include vision and coordination problems, hearing loss, tremors and more.
- Damage to internal organs – The chemicals and other ingredients in bleaching products don’t stay on the surface of the body. Many of them are absorbed through the derma and metabolized in the kidneys and liver. Mercury is not easily broken down by the body and often accumulates in the liver, kidneys and even the brain doing extensive long-term damage. As such it’s conceivable that skin bleaching could actually lead to organ failure.
Bonus Round: A Couple of More Reason Why You Shouldn’t Bleach Your Skin
- Damage to unborn children – When pregnant women use whiteners that contain mercury they can pass that heavy metal directly to their unborn child. Mercury exposure has been proven to produce a rash of physical birth defects and other long-term problems including asthma and developmental disorders.
- Psychiatric problems – People who repeatedly expose themselves to the dangerous chemicals in whitening creams run the risk of developing a slew of psychiatric disorders that can have negative cascading effects on their entire life. In addition, they can fall victim to chronic confusion and irritability, indecisiveness, depression, mood swings, hostility and more.
In Conclusion: Why is Bleaching So Popular?
You would think in an enlightened age like ours where we have already figured out many of the secrets of the universe from the behavior of quantum particles to the structure of galaxies that humans would be beyond all this skin bleaching silliness. Alas, it’s just not so. Skin bleaching remains an incredibly popular activity, and if sales of whitening agents is any indication, it’s only growing in popularity. But why?
- Racism – While we don’t have time to do a comprehensive expose on the subject the fact is that in many African countries as well as places like Jamaica and Haiti women are taught through media messages both subtle and overt that having dark skin will hold them back financially, professionally and romantically.
- Classicism – Just as the ladies of the Elizabethan court pursued a porcelain visage as a way to drive home the point that they didn’t have to work, so too is that tendency to use whiteness as a class divider making a comeback. Skin bleaching products are in fact most popular in countries like India, Thailand, and China where people swimming in new money are eager to establish some sort of social distance between themselves and others they consider beneath them.
If skin cancer, mood disorders, organ failure and vision problems excite you, then you’ll want to try bleaching. If, however, the notion of robust health and loving and respecting yourself for who you are appeals to you, you’ll want to take a pass on these regressive and dangerous products.