For centuries, women have been using various methods to bleach their skin and lighten their skin tones. Unlike the commonly prevalent view that skin bleaching is only practised by women in countries in Africa, it has, in fact, become a part of regular procedures offered by beauty parlours in many countries including India, south-east Asian countries and the United States of America, to males and females alike. However, there has been a constant debate around skin bleach and a lot of people avoid using it because of the potential side effects and complications.
What is skin bleaching and how does it work?
Melanin is a complex polymer that is produced by melanocytes that are present in the human body. All humans have a similar number of melanocytes but the amount of melanin produced by them differs from person to person, primarily based on genetics and the environment. It is a natural pigment and gives colour to a human being’s skin, hair and eyes. The more melanin your skin contains, the darker is your natural skin tone. Melanin helps to shield your skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun which can cause skin cancer.
Skin bleaching products mostly contain bleaching agents such as hydroquinone. It has the property to lighten one’s skin tone and even it out by reducing the number of melanocytes in the applied area, which consequently gives rise to lesser melanin production. Since the lightening effect obtained is temporary and reversible by exposure to the sunlight, people often choose to bleach their skin at regular intervals to maintain a lighter skin tone.
If you happen to have any plans to undergo any form of procedure to bleach your skin, knowing about the following pros and cons of skin bleach and the chemicals used in the same will help you decide if this process is the correct option for you.
Pros of bleaching your skin
1. It can lighten your skin tone
One obvious advantage of using a skin bleaching agent is that it can lighten your skin tone. Once you apply a skin lightening cream to certain areas of your face, the melanin level in that area of the skin tends to go down. Thus, your skin becomes lighter than your natural complexion as desired. There are many procedures through which one can bleach one’s skin and one can choose the appropriate one according to his or her need.
Some popular procedures are creams, soaps which can be topically used on the area to bleach it, and pills that can be ingested for the same effect. If you can afford to spend a little money, you can opt for professional treatments like chemical peels and laser therapy which are safer and performed by experts. If your bleach your skin on a regular basis, it will become lighter and your skin tone will eventually even out.
2. It can help with hyperpigmentation
Often, when one’s skin gets injured or inflamed due to conditions such as acne, it can result in darker spots on one’s skin. This condition is called hyperpigmentation and it causes darker spots to appear on one’s skin due to excessive production of melanin. The darker patches caused by hyperpigmentation can also be a result of hormonal changes during puberty, contraceptive pills, pregnancy, or an environment where you excessively expose your skin to the sun. Generally, this is a completely natural, harmless condition and the dark spots caused by it often disappear with time. However, it becomes a cause of insecurity to some and they prefer to undergo skin bleaching treatments to get rid of the hyperpigmentation which is considered to be a flaw in the skin.
3. It can leave your skin with a bright afterglow
Once you apply bleach to your skin, it looks instantly and noticeably bright instead of dull. This is because when you bleach your skin, not only does your skin tone become lighter but also the dead skin cells on the upper layer of your skin are removed. Thus, your skin gets rejuvenated and layers of newer, brighter skin cells are exposed which gives you a glowy look.
4. It can get rid of stubborn tans
Often, if you spend too much time in the skin your skin may get damaged, the melanocytes in your body produce a lot of melanin and this temporarily darkens your skin tone, giving you tanned skin. Usually, a tan naturally fades away with time if you limit the time that your skin is exposed to the sun. But a skin tan is undesirable by some and to speed up the process of undoing it, bleach is used. If you bleach tanned skin, the tan will reduce and fade away quickly.
5. It can reduce blemishes and improve the texture of your skin
If you apply bleach on your skin, the dead skin cells, whiteheads, and blackheads on the surface can be removed. This instantly makes your skin smoother to the touch and leaves it softer than before. However, bleaching your skin too often can make it rough. Additionally, bleaching your skin can also help you get rid of any imperfections such as blemishes or dark spots with time since the melanin production lowers and your skin tone evens out. This leaves your skin feeling rejuvenated and is a major reason why bleaching agents are a part of many cosmetic products and other creams and cleansers used for taking care of the skin.
6. It can be an easy and painless way to deal with facial hair
Bleaching your hair cannot actually help you get rid of it, but it can lighten their colour from darker tones to lighter shades of brown so that they become unnoticeable and blend in with your skin tone. There are many reasons women prefer to bleach facial hair to deal with the thin hair on the area near their upper or lower lip or their forehead which they find uncomfortable and unwanted. Other methods like waxing, threading, shaving or tweezing out the hair are quite painful and risky while bleaching the hair does not cause pain. It involves no risk of developing painful ingrown hairs, scratchy aftergrowth or burns due to your razor. It is an easy method that requires no skills and can help you tackle the problem of unwanted hair right at home by yourself without having to make an appointment at the local parlour. The process is fast and barely requires fifteen minutes including mixing up the bleach, applying it, leaving it to sit, and then removing it. Additionally, bleaching creme is easily available in all drug stores and is not expensive at all. The results of the bleaching can last from one to three weeks. This differs according to the texture, thickness of your hair and how fast it usually grows.
Cons of bleaching your skin
1. It can cause your skin to have an allergic reaction
After you apply skin bleach on your face, if you feel a strong burning sensation and experience pain, mild itching and redness, then this might be a sign that your skin is experiencing an allergic to the bleaching agent present in it. When bleach comes into contact with your skin it can easily weaken its natural barrier in the form of the outer skin layer, leaving you vulnerable to an allergic reaction such as dermatitis. Signs such as severe burning and itching, swelling, crusty layers, welts in the broken skin or unnatural discolouration of patches of the skin are the warning signs of an intense and dangerous allergic reaction. In such a case, you should immediately visit the doctor, and consult him or her on the available forms of treatment.
2. It can increase sensitivity to harmful UV rays of the sun
When you apply bleach to your skin, the ingredients present in it can erode the melanin in your skin and the uppermost protective layer. This causes you to become extremely sensitive to the UV rays of the sun which can cause dangerous diseases in the human body. Thus, once you have bleached your skin, it is strongly recommended that you avoid exposing it to the sun, and always cover the area with a cloth or apply a strong sunscreen every time you must step out into the sun.
3. It can aggravate any existing skin problems and slow down healing
If you already suffer from skin issues, the burn caused by the bleach is, in all likelihood, going to worsen the condition of your skin. Bleaching agents have been known to have adverse effects on the condition of the skins of people suffering from problems such as eczema or dermatitis. It can even trigger your skin to break out in pimples and acne even if you originally had clear skin. Additionally, it may even decrease the ability of your skin to heal itself when injured due to an injury or a rash.
4. It can only cause your skin to brighten up temporarily
Bleach can only permanently change the colour of hair, but not your skin. The supposed fairness your skin attains after bleaching it is just an illusion caused by the removal of suntans and dark spots. Bleaching your skin cannot change the natural colour of your skin. Moreover, the brightening glow induced by bleach is temporary and fades away after a short duration of time. In order to maintain the complexion that bleach can give you, you would have to use it on a regular basis, but this can cause serious damage to your skin.
5. It can cause your skin to develop permanently discoloured patches
Before you go ahead and apply bleach to your complete face it is very important that you do a patch test. This is because, in many cases, bleach has been known to cause permanent and irreversible white spots on the skin or some form of discoloured patches on it. It may even stain your skin and worsen your pigmentation, blemishes or dark spots. Thus, it is safer to first test out the product on a small patch of skin and wait for at least 24 hours to make sure that your skin does not suffer from any discolouration on being exposed to it.
6. It has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer
Some people who regularly bleach their skin are unaware that many ingredients found in skin bleaching products are actually carcinogens, which means that they have been linked to an increased risk of cancer for the consumer. In fact, skin bleaching or lightening creams have been banned in many countries because they can produce radical cells that cause cells of the human body to mutate and can damage them if absorbed into the skin. Decreased melanin production and the consequently increased sensitivity to the UV rays of the sun can also set you up on the path to dangerous diseases and even skin cancer.
7. It can not remove facial hair
Even though the beach can lighten your hair to a tone that can blend in with your skin and make it less noticeable, the hair will still stand out on your face when you are in an environment with direct sunlight or any other form of bright light. Additionally, it can only change the colour of the hair not the surface of your skin and thus, its effects are short-lived. As soon as your hair starts growing put, its natural colour will be exposed again. Other methods of dealing with facial hair like waxing or threading last much longer.
Beauty is never skin deep. Every colour is beautiful and so is the diversity in skin tone. One should always love themselves and all of their unique features and not feel pressured to conform to idealistic beauty standards set by society. If you still feel that bleaching your skin is the right choice for you, then make sure that you know about all of the disadvantages associated with it before you do it.
Furthermore, make sure that you do a patch test before the application, do not leave the treatment on your skin for longer than instructed in the manual and especially that you do not use it regularly. Your skin might end up becoming dependent on the lightening product and start to show reverse effects if you stop using them. You may even opt for natural alternatives like turmeric, yoghurt and bean, which can brighten up your skin and make it glow without causing any damage to it.