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The skin is the largest and outermost organ of the body. It houses the body’s system and protects it from germs and harsh external factors. In addition to these, the skin’s colour plays an important role in personal identification.

Melanin is the natural pigment which is responsible for the colour of the skin. Production of melanin in cells known as melanocytes is initiated by exposure to (the sun’s) UV radiation. This process causes the skin to darken. Because the melanin pigment is efficient in absorbing light rays, studies have shown that it plays a role in protecting the skin from damage by UV radiation and that those with darker skin colour are at a lower risk of having skin cancer.

However, in spite of these benefits, cultural perceptions which portray light skin colour as beautiful play down the importance of keeping one’s skin colour. With the market replete with skin bleaching products, here’s what you should know.

Common active skin bleaching agents

Some active skin bleaching agents include hydroquinone, glutathione, tretinoin, also known as all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), alpha hydroxy acids, kojic acid, corticosteroids, and toxic forms of mercury. These ingredients are found in whitening soaps and creams and can be administered as pills or through intravenous injections. Though a few acts to filter UV rays and may contain essential antioxidants, most of them are formulated to inhibit the production of melanin.

Bleaching has other names

Bleaching is also known as whitening, lightening, brightening or depigmentation. Some whitening soaps also come with the tag, “antiseptic” while creams come with those such as “white”, “fair” or “clair”. So while products may not go by the name bleaching, these interchangeable words suggest that the products carry out the same function. To avoid buying skin bleaching product, always be on the lookout for these words and the ingredients mentioned above.

Skin lightening has adverse effects

Total skin bleaching is not only expensive to maintain but also harmful. Adverse effects of the prolonged use of whitening products range from predisposition to skin cancer, irritations, thinning, and discolouration; kidney and liver damage; and reduced immunity to infections.

These products are not leaving the market any time soon

In light of these disadvantages, one might wonder why skin lightening products are still produced, all the more so by top brands. Globally, the industry was worth $4.8 billion in 2017; this figure is projected to rise to $8.9 billion by 2027. Truth is, there is a constant demand for these products. In 2011, the World Health Organization published a report which states that in 77% of Nigerian women use skin lightening. Thus, brands still capitalize on these culturally influenced demands even in the midst of prosecutions. For them, the pros of demand outweigh the cons of legal action.

What you can do about it

Develop a positive mentality about your body. This will help you make choices that benefit your health and avoid the burdens that come with a false packaging of beauty.


The Guardian, Skin-lightening creams are dangerous – yet business is booming. Can the trade be stopped?

Refinery29, Skin Bleaching Is Poisoning Women — But Business Is Booming

World Health Organization, Mercury in Skin Lightening Products

Wikipedia, Melanin

Wikipedia, Skin Whitening

Featured image: Amazon

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This article was first published on 3rd June 2019


Nnenna is an editor and writer at Connect Nigeria. She loves fine art, books and places.

Comments (2)

2 thoughts on “Five Things You Should Know About Skin Bleaching”

  • Unlike other products you can find in the stores, the homemade skin whitening products are quite cheap. They are made with products found in any kitchen so that the investment in raw material will not be too high. Any person is able to afford this type of treatment, thus even if you do not have lots on money to spend on this treatment you will still be able to carry on with it and have a white skin in only a few weeks.

  • Many cosmetic creams and ointments stay long enough on the shelves for the curative properties to diminish. Because you know when exactly you have made your product (most of them must be done on the spot and used right away) you have the certainty that the product is fresh and all the active substances will be activated on your skin.

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