People all over the world suffer from skin discoloration whether due to sun damage, aging or even hormonal changes. One solution that many people have turned to is skin bleaching. Skin bleach is a treatment for discoloration, not a method of changing the color of your skin.



What Is Skin Bleaching?

Skin bleaching is a cosmetic treatment that many people perform in their own homes. Skin bleaching can be done through the use of topical creams as well as visits to the dermatologist’s office for laser and chemical peels. The goal of skin bleach is to lighten dark and discolored areas of the skin whether on the face or somewhere else on the body. Skin bleaching is not recommended for birthmarks or moles, but for dark areas, liver spots, freckles and other discolorations.

Causes of Skin Discoloration

Many people throughout the world have uneven pigmentation which has nothing to do with their ethnic background or their actual skin color. Men and women alike suffer from blotchy uneven areas with patches of gray and brown discoloration that are caused by either too much or too little melanin being produced. Melanin is a pigment that has two major forms which combine to create varying skintones. Melanin also provides some sun protection for the skin. Too much melanin in the body is known as hyperpigmentation. There are different classifications of hyperpigmentation: Melasma describes a general darkening of the skin. Chloasma is generally used to describe hormonal skin discoloration. Solar lentigenes are darkened areas generally caused by unprotected sun exposure. Besides these examples hyperpigmentation can also be caused by skin damage. For example blemishes, wounds and rashes can leave scars that are darker than the surrounding skin.

Skin Bleaching Chemicals

Many skin bleaching treatments contain topical hydroqinone. Hydroquinone is recommended by many dermatologists as a safer and similarly effective option than lasers or deep peel treatments to treat hyperpigmentation. Hydroquinone is available in many pharmacies in the United States in a 2 percent topical cream. Another chemical topical azelaic acid has shown to be as effective as hydroquinone but with less irritation, even in up to 20 percent concentration. Also, several plant extracts and Vitamin C have been found by researchers to be effective for inhibiting the production of melanin thus reducing dark spots. For those who have more money and possibly even more serious skin discoloration there are alpha hydroxy peels, which are usually performed by a dermatologist to help reduce skin discoloration.

Dangers of Skin Bleaching

Some would say there is no cost to high to pay for beauty. However, skin bleaching can be an extremely dangerous choice to make for a simply cosmetic reason. Hydroquinone has been linked to cancer, and the Europeans have banned it from cosmetic treatments. Lasers and peels can damage the basic skin cells and cause redness, irritation, sensitivity and scarring. As with any treatment that will change the appearance of your skin as well as possibly the basic components of your skin you face the risk of irritation and redness. Many of the creams that you can buy in the store to lighten dark spots are fairly harmless but some of the ingredients in them when looked at separately are quite dangerous. For example, mercury and arsenic are not ingredients you would choose to put on your face, but they are used in many skin bleaching processes. Popular model and talk show host Tyra Bank’s devoted an entire segment of her talk show to the dangers of skin bleaching. Granted most of the people she was speaking with were not using the creams appropriately and were essentially trying to bleach their entire face or their entire body to a lighter color. However she did address many of the dangers of the ingredients included in most over-the-counter skin bleaching creams.

General Advice

If you suffer from and discoloration and are in the market for a topical skin bleaching cream, it is advised that you use the lowest percentage of active ingredient that you possibly can and do not use the treatment on a large portion of your skin as that is not how they are intended to be used. Treat only the small portion of your skin that is discolored and follow all directions on the packaging to ensure that you do not use the product for longer than intended as this can cause severe skin irritation and damage. It is also recommended that you speak with a dermatologist before beginning any skin bleaching treatments.