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The Dark Truth About Skin Bleaching

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By Victoria Nneka, Okwechime, Paul Masigwe

What shades of darkness could lurk beneath the lighter skin shades produced by skin bleaching? Could there be more harm ingrained in skin bleaching than the good it parades itself to do? How harmful could skin bleaching be?

Also known as skin lightening, the widespread practice of skin bleaching has been in existence since the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman eras and its influence still prevails.

A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that skin bleaching industries will be worth $31.2 billion by 2024 due to its large users.

Skin bleaching cuts across the globe, but it is mostly common among Africans and Asians who intend to meet up with world beauty standards. As such, this craze is aimed at gaining beauty, attraction and confidence.

The use of bleaching products like creams, soaps or pills, chemical peeling or surgical operations are some ways by which skin lightening is attained. This leads to hypopigmentation which is the reduction of melanin concentration.

With skin bleaching comes myriad side effects. Consequently, dermatologists have continuously warned against it.

A profound effect is in its ability to lead to several skin problems.  Skin bleaching products contain harmful chemicals like Hydroquinone, Niacinamide, corticosteroids, and ammoniated mercury, among others.

These are toxic chemical agents that harm humans and the environment. They increase skin sensitivity to the sun, cause skin dryness, ageing, skin burns, irritation and redness, scarring, blue-grey skin discolouration, reduced resistance to skin infections and a greater risk of developing skin cancers.

In the case of pregnant women, the absorption of such chemicals into the skin can lead to a possible risk of abnormalities in the baby.

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Skin bleaching can also result in Exogenous Ochronosis which entails the appearance of dark spots on the skin.

At the peak of the negative impacts of bleaching on the skin is death because excessive use of bleaching products can lead to death. There are also scenarios whereby people lose their lives during surgical operations.

Another consequence, which perhaps may be a bit more obscure, is the psychological impact. The relentless pursuit of lighter skin can lead to low self-esteem, body dysmorphia, and the perpetuation of harmful beauty standards. 

The inimical effects of skin lightening cannot be overemphasised, irrespective of the means. Moreover, skin bleaching is not medically necessary.

Individuals must understand the dangers associated with skin bleaching and make informed choices. Promoting education and awareness surrounding this issue is also essential to combating the ever-growing demand for skin-bleaching products.

If a person intends to lighten his skin colour, such a person must first consider the concomitant effects of bleaching his skin.

It is advisable to speak with a dermatologist as a first strategy before attempting to bleach the skin.

So, the next time you are lured by the beauty of fairer skin, remember the dark truth lurking beneath the surface. Choose to love and care for your skin as it is, embracing its uniqueness and refusing to succumb to societal pressures. After all, true beauty lies in acceptance and self-love and not in harmful practices that jeopardize your well-being.

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