Imagine a World Health Organisation (WHO) report indicating that Nigeria has the highest number of women in the world who use skin lighting products. According to the report made in June this year, 77 per cent of Nigerian women use these products without the slightest idea as to some of the life-threatening ingredients used to make them.
A casual stroll into beauty shops these days come with a very serious threat to anyone’s sanity mainly because, thanks to centre spreads and the internet, there have been tons of “tips” from the safer ones to even more radicals ones on how to achieve an extreme makeover. These days, provided you have the cash, you can even decide on an entire body restructuring. With a few cash, you could change your skin tone, say from dark to white, or preferably, a fairer one.
But what about the life-threatening diseases that come in beautifully packed skin lightening products? It is somewhat no longer news that these products have found a safe haven in Nigeria. At least a report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) said so. According to a WHO report, published in June, the world’s highest percentage – 77 per cent of women in Nigeria – use skin-lightening products. Togo only has 59 per cent, with Senegal coming close second with only seven per cent.
While these products manufacturers promise their consumers several perks attached to the use and sales of their products, they often neglect to tell them the inherent life-threatening skin and organ conditions the unsuspecting "victims'' stand to incur with a prolonged use. Not to mention the embarrassing multiple colours (Fanta face, Coca cola legs sundrome) some individuals may be stuck with for a very long time in their lives.
Medical doctors’ research have concluded that prolonged use of some of the ingredients like steroids, hydroquinone and mercury found in skin-lighting products have deadly impact on the liver, kidney and body cells of the users. Some people have been known to suffer kidney impairment due to severe exposure to these chemicals in their skin lightening products.
One life experience may serve to drive home the point that some chemicals found in these products could actually be harmful to the users. In 2008, doctors treating a woman in the United Kingdom were confused as to why she suddenly developed weight gain, stretch marks and was plagued with an inability to conceive. She later admitted to using a skin lightening product upon further questioning. The cream contained high levels of the steroid corticosteroid. The list of side effects of the steroid corticosteroid is endless. The most serious is Cushing's disease, a malfunction of the adrenal glands leading to an overproduction of cortisol. Other side effects include: increased appetite and weight gain, bone disease, cataracts, muscle weakness, stretch marks, cellulites, eczema, bacterial and fungal infections, pigmentation disorders, among others.
While some products contain hydroquinone, others contain mercury. Hydroquinone is an ingredient that facilitates the bleaching effect on skin. According to the WHO, “mercury is a common ingredient found in skin lightening soaps and creams. It is also found in other cosmetics, such as eye makeup cleansing products and mascara.” Known also as mercurous chloride, mercury products is toxic in the sense that it poisons the bloodstream since it is readily absorbed when applied. Dr Abiodun Lawal, a dermatologist in Lagos said the end result of mercury in the bloodstream include brain, nervous, gastrointestinal and kidney disorders; skin rashes, mood swings, memory loss, and muscle weakness. Prolonged use of mercury-based products also leads to skin rashes, mood swings, memory loss, and muscle weakness, it has been observed.
Hydroquinone, on the other hand, has been linked to ochronosis (thickening and darkening of skin), abnormal function of the adrenal glands, and blood diseases. Scared? You should be. If you’ve been using products with some or more of the ingredients mentioned, now would be the time to stop. Aside of the life-threatening conditions that have been mentioned, continuous use of skin bleaching/lightening products would impair your skin's ability to heal when suffering from an injury, lesion or rash, according a study performed by the Dermatology Unit, Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, Lagos, Nigeria and published in a 2008 issue of the International Journal of Dermatology.