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Green Turtle | South Africa | Beauty | Cheap Skin Bleaching Preparations May Carry a Degree of Risk


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Cheap Skin Bleaching Preparations May Carry a Degree of Risk

Wednesday, 16 Jul 2014 - 4:23 pm

Because the cheaper varieties of skin bleaching preparations are seldom designed to achieve anything more than a lightening or general evening of the user’s complexion, there can often be significant risks attached to their use. Furthermore, these risks are likely to be consistently higher in cases where such preparations tend to be used for prolonged periods and on a repeated basis. The simple fact is that individuals have distinctly different types of complexion that fall into one of six main categories. Each of the six is prone, therefore, to react quite differently even though they may have been exposed to exactly the same agent.

Naturally, it is the subjects with the most sensitive complexions that need to be the most careful. They commonly experience burning, discomfort and pain following the use of a wide range of day-to-day cosmetics but may be especially endangered when exposed to the often very harsh skin bleaching creams and lotions that may be purchased readily, either over the counter at many retail chemists or via the internet today. Both the nature of the active agents used in such products and their concentration must be subject to careful scrutiny if these lightening preparations are to present less of a risk to their users.

Chief among the chemicals employed for this purpose in the early days of these products and still retained in many today, is the substance hydroquinone. The chemical itself and a number of its derivatives with allied properties all occur as natural components of selected plants and, for this reason, were widely considered to be safe. In practice, however, the lightening properties of this powerful antioxidant chemical can prove to be quite harmful when incorporated into skin bleaching products.

Once supplied in concentrations of four percent or even greater, those products that still wish to employ this as their active agent today must now contain no more than half of that amount in order to comply with the recommendation of most medical authorities. However, research conducted on mice has led other authorities to recognise that the use of this substance might be implicated as a cause of malignancy and, by way of response, a number of them have instituted an outright ban on its use for cosmetic purposes in their own countries. South Africa joined the nations of the European Union in adopting such an all-out ban on the use of hydroquinone in 1992. Despite this, however, the underground and online sale of various skin bleaching products containing the banned ingredient has continued locally along with others that are known to contain arsenicals or various mercury derivatives that have been long outlawed on a global scale.

The quest for a lighter complexion is an ongoing one with its origins rooted in ancient times and has become one that, today, is as widespread as the desire for a tan. These conflicting goals have resulted in two rapidly growing new industries that, between them, now serve the need of those lighter-coloured individuals with a desire to appear darker and of those with naturally darker complexions whose ambitions are the exact opposite. Nevertheless, among all races, there remain those whose prime requirement is to lower the level of surface pigmentation by the use of a safe and effective skin bleaching agent.

While the research conducted by industry leaders such as Scinderm has failed to identify a substance as effective as hydroquinone, it has actually achieved something far more important and relevant to the needs of the end users. While the discovery of numerous naturally occurring substances in plants with a milder ability to reduce pigmentation was an important first step, it was the formulation of various combinations of these active ingredients in such a way that their effects were as potent as hydroquinone yet free of its potential dangers that proved to be the real breakthrough in the technology underlying modern skin bleaching preparations.

These substances are, of course, not bleaches in the accepted chemical sense, but merely chemicals with the ability to interfere in some way with the normal metabolism of the dark brown pigment melanin. The chemicals act variously. Either in the role of enzyme inhibitors, preventing pigment production, as modifiers that alter the normal colour of metabolites or as accelerants that act to hasten the normal breakdown of accumulated pigment. Scinderm combines these with natural nutrients and restorative components to ensure that, in addition to their highly effective lightening properties, these skin bleaching products also promote overall dermal wellness.

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