Skin whitening means to make ones skin complexion lighter, by using different methods available in the market or doing home remedies. Most of the whitening treatments could be hazardous for skin and does not work for every person. Due to high demand for fair skin, it has become a billion-dollar industry.
What is skin whitening?
Skin whitening, is a practice which aims at lightening dark skin, where melanin is targeted to reduce its concentration in the skin, at times for removing melasma (dark patches of skin) uneven skin tone or to achieve an overall paler skin colour (in most of the cases).
It is achieved by using products available at the market for skin whitening or taking advanced treatments by the cosmetologist.
History of skin whitening:
Skin lightening has been a popular trend among many nations. Generally, it is considered beautiful to have a white or lighten the complexion.
This concept has been changing and many western countries where mostly people have pale skin, they now tend to tan their skin because they think it as beautiful. Whereas in Asia and African countries where there are darker skin shades are common, people tend to lighter their skin to look good. Skin bleaching or lightening is very popular worldwide and this trend traces its roots to very older times.
6 Reasons Why People do skin whitening Methods:
One of those reasons is colonisation. As this trend is more common and desirable in Asian and African countries who are considered as third world countries, colonisation has left its marks on the people’s mind. Wherever there was ones colonisation in the world, light skin and light hair color is preferred there as beautiful.
2. Justifying slavery:
To justify slavery, white supremacist ideology was that people of African decent are inferior because of their white skin and on the other hand, whiter complexion was associated with the superiority, intellect, higher social class, being civilised and beauty.
In case if the slave had a bit lighter complexion, he was used to be put on indoor duties, away from the scorching sun.
3. Chance of better opportunities:
If a person was used to be paler or fairer, he would used to have had better opportunities that only white people had in terms of good job, more privileges, high social class.
4. Arranged marriage and skin tone:
In the subcontinent, there is important for the bride or groom to be fairer and this concept is also link with the white rule in the region.
5. Western media influence:
The concept of white skin as beautiful has been transported from western media to around the world, as western media has been a cultural super power and thus influence people’s choice and opinion.
All famous and beautiful western models were used to be white, which has also made people believe it beautiful.
6. K-pop influence on younger generation:
K-pop is very popular among youngsters throughout the world and their idols are highly followed everywhere.
K-pop idols like BTS, who are the most popular among k-pop groups are usually seen as having a paler complexion which is demand of the K-pop industry and also it increases value of their brand. Thus, it is one of the reasons why young generation prefers too look paler.
Countries with highest number of skin whitening products in use:
According to World Health Organization (WHO) report, following are the countries having the highest number of people using the skin whitening products.
South Africa: 35 percent
Mali: 25 percent
Togo: 59 percent
Senegal: 27 percent
Craze for skin bleaching has been deep rooted in the different cultures.The desire to lighten skin has been from centuries within different cultures, sometimes due to the cultural preference for the paler or fairer complexion and at times due to other factors which played the role for people’s obsession with lighter skin tone.
The highest number of skin bleaching practice is found in Africa, which shows very obvious signs of the effects of slavery in the older times.
Skin Whitening Methods:
Following are the procedures in practise around the world to achieve a whiter or fairer complexion.
Skin bleaching is one of the most common methods for skin whitening. It is one of the cosmetic treatment which uses certain chemicals to achieve the results.
Following are the active and common ingredients used in the whitening creams.
These chemicals include the following.
Let us look at what each agent mentioned above does to our skin.
It is one of the effective ingredients in skin whitening products which helps in depigmentation of melasma, freckles, but due to its damaging effects because to its long term use, it is not available in many countries.
It is prescribed over the counter concentration is 2 percent. But in some countries it is available at 4 percent by the dermatologist. It should not be used more than 6 months.
Excessive use causes fish odour from body secretions like sweat and urine.
What are the side effects of hydroquinone?
One of the most common side effects caused by hydroquinone is the Exogenous Ochronosis. It causes blue-blackish patches to appear on skin if it is used for long term.
Other possible side effects:
One of the main ingredients used in the skin bleaching products.
It helps by preventing the formation of melanin by deactivating the enzyme responsible for melanin production.
Until early 20s, it was used in many creams and toiletries in form of ammoniated mercury, mercurous chloride and oxide. But later it was found as toxic and hazardous, thus it is banned in many countries.
There is a limit of 1 mg/kg (1 ppm) to be used in skin bleaching products. But this set is over ruled by many companies as they exceed its amount in the skin lightening product to achieve a greater whitening effect on skin.
Side effects of Skin Whitening Products:
If skin bleaching products are used for long time or exceeding the set limit of mercury in the product then it could cause Mercury Poisoning.
If it is used for long time, then mercury deposits in the hair and nails causing them to get darkened.
Hearing and eyesight problem
Anxiety or Depression
Mercury can be transmitted to the unborn baby and also to born baby through breast milk.
c) Kojic acid:
Kojic acid is used as a skin bleaching agent, which helps to stop formation of tyrosine which produces melanin.
Recommended use of Kojic acid in products in 1 percent or less.
Side of kojic acid which is used in Skin Whitening Products
Causes dry patches, blisters, rashes, itching and pain. People with sensitive skin are more likely to have contact dermatitis.
One can easily sunburn.
It is recommended to use sunblock in the areas where you can get exposure to sunlight to protect oneself from UV rays in case of using skin whitening product containing Kojic acid.
d) Vitamin A:
Vitamin A also called as Retinol (over the counter), helps preventing pigmentation caused by the sun and thus acts as a natural shield. It also helps in increasing skin radiance by shedding old cells and rough skin cells which were pigmented and thus making room for newer cells which helps in reflecting more even light on the skin, which helps in making face look more radiant.
Does skin bleaching products have a long-term effect?
As skin creams contain many compounds which are already used in small amounts in bleaching creams, that is why if it is used for longer time could cause serious dangers like mercury poisoning, liver damage, skin cancer, etc.
Glutathione (short is GHS) is an antioxidant which turns melanin into a lighter shade. It also helps to prevent the production of enzyme tyrosinase which causes to produce melanin.
It appears natural in human cells which helps in increasing immune system and also detoxify liver.
Its levels decrease in body with the passing age.
Glutathione, available in the form of injection, is a way to achieve a brighter skin of the overall body.
Glutathione injections are injected directly into the blood.
How long does it take for whitening injection to work?
It depends on the skin tone of a person as it works different time on different skin tones. Also, it depends on the metabolism of a person for example if the metabolism of a person is fast, it will work fast on the person.
Is whitening injection permanent?
They are not permanent. Therefore, if we need to maintain a bright skin then we also need to keep on taking these injections as prescribed by the doctor.
Glutathione is also available to be taken in the form of tablets.
Oral glutathione dosage for skin whitening:
It is found to be ineffective in showing desired results.
Also available in the form of drip, works same as glutathione injection and shows effective results.
Is glutathione whitening permanent?
It is permanent. It effects only if you get exposure to direct sunlight.
This process helps in clearing and improving skin texture thus making it appear more smother and eventually lighten the skin tone appearance.
As it can be seen from its name, for skin whitening, chemicals are used for peeling skin, which peels off epidermis cells and upper part of the dermis (middle layer of skin).
While doing the process a chemical solution, containing (mild tretinoin based peel) is applied to the skin after which blisters appear on the skin which later peels off from the skin, thus helps in the skin in removing dead skin cells, pigmentation, increase collagen production, removes scars which as a result, helps in improving overall skin tone, which appears brighter and lighter.
Three types of chemical peels:
There are three types of chemical peels used. Each type is used to target the type of skin problems one is concerned about. Let us see how each does to our skin.
Light chemical peel:
This type of chemical peel is used to remove only the top layer of skin (epidermis).
It takes almost seven days to recover, along with signs of some redness and mild irritation. Its results stays for almost 2 months. To maintain results, it should be re-done after almost 4 to 6 months.
Mild peeling agents are used in the process are beta hydroxy acids and hydroxy acids.
Light chemical peel recommendation:
It is normally recommended if you are concerned about the following skin conditions:
Uneven skin tone
Medium chemical peel:
It removes the epidermis and upper part of dermis (middle layer of skin).
Normally, glycolic acid and trichloroacetic acid are used for it.
This procedure can be done after 4 to 10 months.
Medium chemical peel recommendation:
It is also recommended after viewing the skin concerns. It is used for the same skin conditions as lighter chemical peel but for ‘deep wrinkles’ removal.
Deep chemical peel:
As its name says, it helps to peel off deeper layers of skin (till the lower layer of skin), using phenol.
Its recovery time is till 8 to 10 days. Skin healing process is months long, but effects stay longer till few years.
It is done only once in whole life.
Deep chemical peel recommendation:
It is recommended if one is having the following skin concerns:
Improving skin tone
Uneven skin tone
Helps in collagen production
Who should get a chemical peel?
Anyone can use this procedure, but they are most effective on those having lighter skin tone. People with darker skin tone may also have effective results but it totally depends on the type of skin concern they are getting treated.
Is there any side effects of chemical peeling?
As it is a chemical process, therefore it comes with some serious side effects, especially if precautions are not taken during the procedure.
Following are the side effects which can occur after procedure:
Viral, bacterial and fungal infection
If precautions are not taken in using phenol during deep chemical peel procedure, then it may cause damage to heart muscles, liver and kidneys.
Chemical peel causes skin sensitivity to sun. Therefore, a sunblock with SPF 40+ should be used daily.
Skin whitening famous Procedures
1. Cryosurgery or Cryotherapy:
This procedure used liquid nitrogen which is cooled down to freezing temperature and applied over skin. Extreme temperature causes melanin present in the skin to come over the top layer of skin, and after the skin is peeled off, it sheds off the melanin and old cells, thus new and lighter skin appears as a result.
It is a safe procedure to be used for all skin types.
This procedure removes the dead skin from the top layer of skin, and thus new and healthy cells replace them.
This procedure is not targeted towards skin lightening but due to removal of the top layer of skin, it makes skin appears lighter.
This procedure is suitable for all skin types.
It usually has no serious side effects but can cause the following problems:
As skin appears to be dry after the procedure this the use of moisturiser is recommended.
3. Laser treatment:
It shows the longlasting results and works by peeling the skin, but using laser which is called laser peel or laser skin resurfacing, hence encouraging the production of new cells, as a result making skin appear lighter.
It not only removes dead skin cells but also lightens pigmentation, scars, and reducing wrinkle appearance.
After procedure the skin recovers within 6 to 8 days. Application of sunscreen is recommended as skin gets highly sensitive to the sun after the treatment.
Who should not take the procedure:
People who are going through some kind of skin disorder, having prolonged acne problem, are easily prone to scarring or have cold sores should avoid taking the treatment.
Stop smoking At least 4 to 5 weeks before and after laser treatment.
Is Skin Whitening laser treatment safe?
It is somehow safe, if the procedure is conducted by the certified professional. But it still causes few skin concerns after procedure which are listed below:
Change in skin tone
Natural Skin Whitening Procedure:
Many natural ingredients are used for skin whitening. Natural ingredients which help in achieving skin whitening in natural way and is also cheap on a person’s pocket. The ingredients are the following:
In today’s fast growing world and technology, many skin whitening methods are available, many of them have temporary result except the laser treatment. These methods include harmful ingredients which may have hazardous results. Still this is billion dollar industry due to high demand for achieving fairer skin.
Most of the cheap and easy method to achieve lighter skin is using skin bleaching creams.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are some questions which are frequently asked by people regarding skin whitening Methods. Reading them may clear your concepts more.
1. Can Kojic acid permanently lighten skin?
Kojic acid can not permanently lighten skin tone as it is not cytotoxic. It can lighten skin tone permanently only in case if skin gets darkened due to hyperpigmentation and acne.
2. What is the main ingredient in bleaching cream?
The most used ingredient in bleaching creams is hydroquinone.
3. How much is the skin bleaching industry worth?
It is estimated that till year 2027, this industry would be worth more than 24 billion dollars.
4. Which countries banned skin whitening products?
There is a list of countries imposed a ban on skin bleaching products.
South Africa: Imposed ban in 1983.
Rawanda: Imposed ban in 2013.
Ivory Coast: Imposed a ban in 2015.
Ghana: Imposed a ban in 2016 on creams containing hydroquinone.
5. What country bleaches the most?
World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that Nigeria has the highest percent of women using skin lightening products, which is 77 percent.
As much skin whitening is growing as a global industry, as much it is getting a concern for the organisations to make people accept their natural beauty and also to protect them from the hazardous effects which people might encounter after taking the procedures.
It always seems to be a safe option to use natural skin whitening methods, because of the natural harmless ingredients they contain.
Keeping skin clean daily and maintaining the basic skin care routine would help alot in keeping complexion better than before and thus a lighter, neat and bright complexion can be achieved.