Changing your skin colour? Bleaching creams can have serious health impacts – Dermatologist | Sunday Observer
The colour of beauty is the colour you own! Sudu Kalu thalelu Api okkoma Dakumkalu

Changing your skin colour? Bleaching creams can have serious health impacts – Dermatologist

27 February, 2022

Skin Lightening products are becoming increasingly popular despite many of them being illegal and not registered by the official authorities responsible for maintaining safe and effective skincare products for users. They come in a number of attractive packages to appeal to those who are enticed by outward beauty: bleaching creams, skin brighteners, fading creams, pills and injections all of which promote lightening skin colour and transforming natural dark skin to lighter skin, or to hide acne scars or ageing spots. The million rupee question is do they all work? And for how long does it take for the user to see a positive (or negative) result? How safe they are?

To begin with, what determines the colour of one’s skin in the first place? Is it a pigment? Is it genetics?

The Sunday Observer spoke to Consultant Dermatologist and Secretary to the Cosmetic Dermatology Subcommittee of Sri Lanka College of Dermatologists, Dr. Januka Galahitiyawa to find answers to these questions which thousands of mostly females in this country and elsewhere in the world are desperately searching to find in their quest for beauty, to change their skin colour to a lighter shade.

Following are excerpts.

Q. Firstly what is your definition of Skin and its function?

A. Skin is the largest organ in the body and its main functions are to protect from physical and chemical hazardous agents and to regulate body temperature. Skin is the most sensitive organ in the body. As the skin is visible to the outside, having beautiful skin is quite appealing. Since the olden days, the skin has been described as one of the five beautifying things on a female and our literature is replete with poetry and discussions praising the beauty of female skin. So maintaining beautiful skin has played a very important role to women.

Q. Is it necessary to have fair skin, to be beautiful?

A. It is not the skin colour that matters. Whether you have black or brown or fair skin doesn’t have anything to do with beauty. Beautiful skin is spotless, healthy skin.

Q. What determines the colour of one’s skin? Is it a pigment? Genetics?

A. Melanin, which is the pigment in our skin. There are two types of melanin, Eumelanin and Pheomelanin. Eumelanin gives a darker shade to our skin and it protects us from harsh sunlight. In the absence or reduced amount of eumelanin, the skin loses its protection from ultraviolet radiation leading to premature ageing of the skin with wrinkles and also the risk of skin cancers, which could be even fatal. Actually, we are born with a darker skin type to protect us from Sun as we are living close to the equator. Depending on genetic conditions and different weather conditions in the world people inherit their skin colour. One’s own skin colour is his own identity.

Q. Age-wise and gender-wise who comprises the biggest users of skin lightening products?

A. It is the age group from 18 to 60 who uses these skin lightening agents. Gender-wise more than 90 percent are women of all ages young and old from teenagers to even those in their fifties and sixties. Many have devalued their capabilities and talents and are going behind the fair colour, wasting money and time. The products are advertised in an unethical manner, were showing up as a naturally fair star to promote and endorse different products. As I mentioned earlier, the skin whitening market has increased in billions. So have the adverse effects caused by them .-

Q. You mentioned the adverse health consequences of using these products. Can you elaborate on this?

A. As many of these skin lightening agents are not registered in the National Medicines Regulatory Authority, and brought illegally, we have evidence to show that using them can lead to serious health hazards. To cite some examples, they can contain heavy metals such as Mercury, lead and arsenic in very high concentrations than recommended.

A few years back an analysis of constituents of skin whitening agents which were available in the market, was done. In the concluded findings it was found that Hydroquinone like bleaching agents are being included in high concentrations, and it could cause blackish pigmentation on the areas of application. Illegally, potent steroids are being added to these, causing various side effects.

Steroids are a group of drugs used for various other skin problems, for a limited period of time to a limited area. And the potency of the steroid is the key factor, which should be very important. Potent steroids could cause whitish or light colour areas as a side effect.

They can cause short term side effects such as,

1. Allergies and dermatitis of the skin

2. Increased sensitivity to sun exposure

3. Instead of fairness of skin, it can cause dark patches (brown or black) or white patches on the skin.

4. Steroids in topical applications can cause severe acne, discolouration of the skin, thinning of the skin, stretch marks, increased tendency to get different skin infections (viral, bacterial or fungal) and increasing the severity of the existing infections, increase the growth of facial hair on females.

When these applications are used long-term they can cause premature skin ageing could occur due to the loss of skin protection, kidney and liver-related issues could be caused due to heavy metals in the skin lightening agents.

Occurance of Skin cancers, as well as other cancers, could be due to heavy metals and glutathione in these products

There is no proper scientific evidence to prove the use of glutathione for skin lightening. Creams and tablets causing skin fairness are limited. Injection forms of glutathione are not recommended for skin lightening in Sri Lanka as well as in other countries, due to serious side effect profiles, including allergic reactions and skin cancers.

Q. What about pregnant women who use these products, especially on their entire body?

A. Applying skin lightening products to one’s entire body to change one’s complexion poses some very risky complications as the active ingredient as I mentioned is mercury.

So bleaching can lead to mercury poisoning which can cause serious psychiatric, neurological and kidney problems. It is also said that a woman using it on her body as well as taking pills and injections to lighten the skin colour during pregnancy, can pass it on to her unborn child and could cause harmful effects to the baby as well.

Q. So how can one maintain one’s own natural beauty without any article lightening products? Share some of your tips to natural beauty with our readers.

A. Beautiful skin is healthy, spotless, glowing skin. To achieve this goal and maintain beautiful skin , you should follow the advice I have given below:

Daily skincare routine –

Cleansing the skin with a mild soap or a liquid wash. Too harsh washes and soaps could change the top protective skin layer.

Usage of a suitable skin moisturiser depending on one’s skin type,

Sun protection – Avoidance of harsh direct sun exposure, wearing hats, scarves, sun-protective gear, Application of sun protection cream with an SPF value of more than 30.

Good nutrition and exercise-

A balanced diet,

Adequate exercise to maintain body mass index (BMI),

Weight reduction in order to prevent darkening of skin folds which would prevent

Rest and sufficient sleep

These are top secrets to a good healthy skin.

Treatment of existing skin diseases

(Skin inflammations, infections, pigmentary disorders, tumours, acne or etc). Depending on the ailment, one should take topical, systemic or procedural treatment to overcome the situation and obtain beautiful clear skin. Qualified trained dermatologists are ready to give you specialised skin care advice.

For ‘Makeup’ to beautify the skin, you should choose the correct colour in applications that suits your own skin tone, not the fairer skin tone.

Q. As Secretary of the Cosmetic Dermatology Sub Committee of the Sri Lanka College of Dermatologists, tell us what your Association has done and plans to do in the future to pass on this important message and raise awareness among the public as a whole?

A. A public awareness programto promote natural skin colour and educate on health hazards that can be caused by skin lightening agents and to change attitudes to admire one’s own skin is being conducted by the Cosmetic Subcommittee of the Sri Lanka College of Dermatologists. Wide awareness through social, printed and electronic media to reach school children, university students, garment factory workers and etc are being carried out to achieve the target. In addition, we are encouraging users to write their own stories, and never let anything else stop their journey. Be proud of your own identity. Let’s get together to shine in your own skin colour…. Sudu Kalu thalelu Api okkoma Dakumkalu

colour of beauty is the colour you own every colour is beautiful SLCD Dakumkalu

Q. Finally, do you have a word of advice for our readers out there?

A. Be aware of the power of your own identity. Learn to admire healthy skin, not ‘ white’ skin.

Look after your skin with tender loving care. Healthy skin reflects a healthy body.

The Colour of beauty is the colour you own. Sudu Kalu Thalelu Api Okkoma Dakum Kalu. Beauty is not in the facial mode. Beauty is about your uniqueness, good values, morals, kindness, compassion, personality, creativity and thoughts.