Skin whitening is a multibillion-dollar industry. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that more than 50% of women in Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines are using products that lighten skin tone. Estimates showed that the percentages might be higher in India, Africa, and even Western countries such as America. While some include these products in their daily skincare routine, some are used to treat conditions such as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, freckles, or melasma. Find your doctor if you find yourself having any of these conditions.
How do skin lightening agents work
Melanin is the skin pigment of our skin and will largely determine our skin tone. It is produced by melanocytes, which utilize ultraviolet rays from the sunlight to produce melanin. Of course, the amount of melanin is also determined by genetics. The process of melanin production is rather complex with many enzymes involved, one of the important enzymes being tyrosinase. Most skin whitening agents target this enzyme and try to stop melanocytes from producing melanin .
Hydroquinone is a popular, well-established chemical compound found in skin whitening agents that inhibits tyrosinase. Topical steroid creams and mercury salts are also found to interfere with the process of melanin production. Hydrogen peroxide has a skin whitening effect through the destruction of melanocytes . Over the years, scientists and pharmaceutical researchers have identified several other tyrosinase inhibitors. These include Arbutin, Kojic acid, ascorbic acid, Chinese tamarisk and more. Arbutin can be found in bilberry and pear. Kojic acid and ascorbic acids are chemical compounds found in certain skincare products. Chinese tamarisk is a plant with light pink flowers. It is licensed by the Japanese Pharmaceutical Affairs Law to be used in cosmetics and skincare .
The list below are some plant species that might contain skin lightening constituents :
- Aloe vera
- Green tea
Misuse of skin whitening agents
Many products have included the substances mentioned above to enhance the whitening effects. However, some of these products are unregulated and contain unapproved concentrations of the active ingredients within the product. Misuse of these substances can lead to deleterious effects, especially so for hydroquinone, steroids, and mercury. Misuse of hydroquinone has both short and long-term consequences. Irritant contact dermatitis is an example, while prolonged use may lead to a skin condition called exogenous ochronosis, where blue-black pigmentation builds up on the cheeks, temples, and neck. This is often irreversible. High doses of mercury salts can be absorbed into the body and cause kidney damage, or even memory loss and depression. The side effects of steroids are skin thinning, stretch marks, and inflammation of the skin follicles. It may also lead to acne and infection of the skin (TInea corporis) . It is therefore important to check if the product has been licensed for use, and if possible read the ingredients they contain to ensure that the product is safe.
What are the best remedies?
Bright, fair skin are highly sought after by women as long as the pharmaceutical industry can remember. It started in the 16th century and this industry may continue to grow further. Many companies use marketing strategies to promote their products, make false promises and many might even conceal the true active ingredients included in the product. It is therefore important to read the ingredients carefully and check for its license prior to application. The only and true remedy for fair skin is to avoid harsh sunlight and apply sunscreen religiously. The most common reason for stomach pain is indigestion. If the food you have eaten is not digested properly, it produces gas and toxic mucus in the stomach.
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