Know about the dangers of skin whitening creams and how harmful can they be

By Skin & Hair Academy | October 15, 2015
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Isha Agarwal

- Skin & Hair Care Consultant

It’s an open secret that Indians are obsessed with fair skin. This very craze feeds the thriving, multi-million dollar fairness industry in India. People swayed by tall (and false) claims, adopt such products while being blissfully ignorant of the side effects entailed.


Skin whitening and bleaching products have often raised eyebrows, especially of consumer activists and for all the right reasons. Yet, a vast majority fails to realise the dangers skin lightening creams pose to their health.

A number of creams that claim to lighten your skin contain hazardous compounds such as hydroquinone, tretinoin and steroids which cause irreparable damage to the skin.Products containing such chemicals have been banned for over-the-counter sale in countries abroad.


Prolonged use of products containing hydroquinone and mercury may lead to pigmentation and premature ageing. Or worse still, skin cancer, liver damage and other lethal diseases.

Skin whitening pills come with side effects of a similar kind. Let’s not even get started on the harmful effects of skin bleaching!

Skin whitening products and melanin

precautionsSkin lightening products inhibit the production of a pigment called melanin. Abundant in dark skin, melanin protects skin from harmful UV rays, preventing skin cancer. Curbing melanin production robs the skin of its natural protection, making one more prone to skin cancer.

Precautions to keep in mind:

  • It’s best to consult a good dermatologist before using any skin whitening product.
  • Make sure the skin lightening cream you choose doesn’t contain mercury. Mercury is often listed under other names such as mercuric, calomel, or mercurous. So beware!
  • If a label lists hydroquinone as one of the ingredients, make sure it doesn’t contain more than 2% of the chemical. In case the label on the product doesn’t mention how much hydroquinone is present, it’s best you don’t buy it at all.

Always read the label of the cream you buy or better still, talk to a dermatologist before using any skin lightening product. You may unwittingly be doing more harm than good to your skin!

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