Bleach, sometimes containing sodium hypochlorite, is a hazard to skin. It can cause chemical burns, irritation and swelling when exposed to skin. It can also destroy melanin (pigment) in the body. Bleach is commonly used as a cleaning agent because of its strength. However, long-term exposure to bleach in a household situation or a job situation is not beneficial to your skin or respitory health. Bleach is a corrosive, hazardous chemical and should be used with caution.

Chemical Burns

Bleach can cause mild to moderate skin irritation, blisters and dangerous chemical burns. All chemical burns should be treated as a medical emergency. Usually they are only outpatient treatments. Some agents can cause tissue damage. Tissue damage depends on the strength or concentration of the agent, the location of the burn, whether it was swallowed or inhaled, whether the skin is intact or not, the duration of your contact with the agent and how the chemical works. Symptoms of a chemical burn include redness, irritation or burning at the burn site, pain or numbness, blisters or black, dead skin. In serious cases symptoms are low blood pressure, faintness, weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, headache, muscle twitching and seizures, cardiac arrest or irregular heartbeat.

Skin Bleaching Cream

Skin bleaching is done for cosmetic effects or in an effort to make scars less noticeable. Skin creams can be dangerous because of their ingredients. One ingredient in skin lightening creams is mercury. Mercury, even in small concentrations, can cause neurological damage. Another ingredient is skin creams is Hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is also used in film processing procedure. France has banned the use of Hydroquinone because of cancer risks. Alpha Hydroxy Acids are another ingredient used in skin bleaching products. It is administered by professionals only and should not be used regularly at home. The final ingredient may be the worst. Arsenic, which is basically poison, is present in some of the creams.

Cell Death

When applied to the skin, bleach kills off melanin-making cells. Melanin, also known as pigment, gives the skin and hair its natural color. The more melanin a person has, the darker their skin color is. By killing off these cells, a lighting or fading process begins, forever altering the skin’s natural color. Melanin serves important purposes for humans such as protection against ultraviolet rays that are dangerous to the skin. In skin cancer situations, patients have a lessened amount of melanin. This is why melanin is such a crucial part of bodily function and not just a cosmetic concern. Loss of melanin is dangerous.

Contact Recommendations

If you are going to encounter bleach, especially on a daily basis, it is strongly recommended that you wear rubber gloves. Initial skin contact may cause moderate to severe irritation consisting of discomfort, itching, redness, swelling and chemical burns. If skin contact does occur, the person affected should remove all clothes and shoes exposed to the bleach. Exposed areas should be washed with soap and water immediately. You should visit your physician if the irritation continues. It is advised that even if minimal contact occurs, that the areas which have come in contact with the bleach be washed immediately to avoid damage.


If you must be exposed to bleach, then you must be sure to follow precautions such as wearing protective clothing and keeping bleach inhalation and contact with skin to a minimum. While bleach is a necessary household cleaning chemical, overexposure is hazardous to your health. If you experience any complications due to bleach exposure, it is advised that you seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Make sure you understand all the adverse effects of bleach before you use it.