THE bleaching phenomenon has existed in Jamaica for many years, and is also very popular in areas such as Asia, Africa, South America and even Europe.
The reasons for bleaching one's skin vary — some think it propels them socially or economically, and gets them the partners they desire; for others, it's a matter of self-esteem and believing that their skin colour is inferior.
In addition, one popular excuse is that bleaching creams clear up dark spots and acne from the skin, as well as “tone” one's complexion.
But the truth is, many bleachers hide under the terms “toning” or “glowing up”, and it is important to note that these all alter the skin cells that produce melanin.
Apart from toning, other subtle forms of skin bleaching include the use of skin lightening soaps such as Bumebime; bleaching pills; and the intravenous Glutathione, a skin lightening injection.
Some of these products promise whiteness in as quickly as one week, but the hidden damage is what many don't know.
Dr Neil Persadsingh, dermatologist, explained that over time, using bleaching products will affect the colouration of the skin, cause scarring, loss of rigidity in skin, stretch marks, and wounds that are difficult to heal.
“Some creams contain hydroquinone, mercury and kojic acid, which severely damage the skin and limit its ability to protect against UV rays. It may cause wrinkling, severe acne, and marks that may be irreversible. Some lead to cancer and some people may develop a scaly layer on their skin when they stop. They can end up with more severe and sometimes irreparable complications, like skin mutations, hyper-pigmentation and Cushing syndrome — a symptom of which is a large hump of fat at the back of the neck,” Dr Persadsingh said.
In adverse cases, Dr Persadsingh said stretch marks will appear all over the body, the skin will break open, and people may develop secondary infections or depositions of pigment that are difficult to treat.
Moreover, what's worrying is that the drugs are readily available on the black market, sold as “glow products” on social media, and allow great monetary profits for the sellers. Those who buy often sacrifice other basic necessities, just for a lighter or “toned” skin.
Dr Persadsingh said some people have developed a formula where they pause the products for a while and give their skin a chance to recover, but for others it's a continuous practice that will take much time to be done away with.