FROM THE GRIO — Use of skin bleaching creams may increase the risk of developing diabetes and other diseases, according to a study in Canadian Family Physician.
When walking into many pharmacies or beauty supply stores, particularly in urban communities, the sale of skin lightening products is quite rampant. Brands such as Ambi and Porcelana advertise the potential for consumers to lighten and balance uneven skin tone, with hopes of appearing more attractive.
Hydroquinone is the commonly used active ingredient in many of these bleaching creams.
This chemical works by stopping the production of melanin, which is responsible for the darkening of a person’s skin tone. But, Dr. Neelam Vashi, a dermatologist at Boston University Medical Center believes that hydroquinone is a safe skin-lightening product.
“I believe that when used appropriately, and under physician’s guidance, and with proper sun-avoidance, I think hydroquinone is a safe and effective method of skin lightening,” Vashi said.
However, Vashi does warn that there are side effects of the long-term use of hydroquinone products.
“The most severe and widely recognized side-effect of chronic hydroquinone [use] is called exogenous ochronosis, which is a paradoxical darkening of the skin, and it happens when hydroquinone is used at high concentrations for several years,” she said.
Symptoms of exogenous ochronosis include blue and grayish hyperpigmentation and bumps on skin.
Although hydroquinone has been banned in several countries, including Japan, the European Union, and Australia, the over-the-counter sale of this product is legal in the United States.
According to the Food and Drug Agency, the legal maximum percentage for over-the-counter hydroquinone-based products in the U.S. is 2 percent. However, there have been several instances where certain bleaching products contain an illegally higher concentration of 4 percent of more.
There have also been cases where certain lightening creams contain extremely powerful prescription-strength steroids.