Experts raise alarm over bleaching creams’ ill effects

bleachingPiqued by the negative consequences of using bleaching creams, health experts have raised alarm over its unwholesome use among Nigerians.

The experts, who spoke exclusively to The Guardian, stated that some Nigerians are dying from the consequences of using bleaching products.

Bleaching, which is often referred to as toning, lightening, whitening and brightening, is a very important aspect of clinical skin care and is performed for corrective and aesthetic purposes. Its practice cuts across all races, including those of European descent.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 77 per cent of Nigerian women use skin-lightening products. This is the highest percentage globally.

Speaking in Lagos, a dermatologist with Derma Care Medical Limited, Dr Vivian Oputa, stated that bleaching cream was causing a lot of havocs among Nigerians, adding that the lifestyle can lead to skin cancer and kidney disease, liver damage, osteoporosis and skin cancer, even as she advised people to desist from it.

Oputa blamed socio-cultural reasons for high rate of bleaching in the country, saying “many women who bleach believe men will find them more attractive and that they have better chances of succeeding” in life and career.

“It does seem that the epidemic of colour prejudice in other countries where lighter skinned women are used in advertising campaigns and entertainment videos is influencing our women and some men here,” the dermatologist said.

“One client came into my clinic with her nine months old baby. She insisted that she wanted to start bleaching her baby. After trying my best to discourage her, citing the dangers and hazards, she stormed out of my office, saying she would go to the open market to buy any cream recommended by the traders,” Oputa revealed.

Oputa explained that many people who are attracted to bleaching products use dangerous chemicals in a bit to tone their skin.

“They use all sort of things, even concocted or mixed creams, which may contain ingredients, ranging from steroids and hair relaxers to peroxides used for bleaching hair and mercury. I have seen severely damaged skin with even stretch marks on the face,’’Oputa said.

Bleaching cream is a big beauty business in Nigeria.In some parts of Nigeria, dark complexioned people are considered inferior, and so people, mostly female folks, would rather go for skin whitening or bleaching creams, pills and other products to tone their skin.

Investigation revealed that bleaching products come either in tablets or injections methods. Both injections and tablets promise to give a much brighter, even toned, complexion when taken regularly. Glutathione is antioxidant and an active ingredient used in the lightening methods.

Generally, glutathione is given to patients with cancer, heart disease, dementia, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and in other diseases where glutathione is drained.

In HIV, glutathione levels are low and this contributes to immune deficiency, as the lymphocytes need normal levels of glutathione to function properly. The body produces glutathione but with age, the levels fall. Low levels or the lack of glutathione leads to liver failure. It also leads to immune system failure and cells die from oxidative stress.

“It was discovered that patients on high dose glutathione therapy had significant skin lightening as a side effect. Now, this has become a fast growing treatment for cosmetic purposes. Injectable glutathione has become more popular than tablets and are given intravenously two to three times a week for about six months. The digestive tract is bypassed and the maximum concentration reaches the target cells,” Oputa explained.

“Glutathione acts to lighten skin by inhibiting tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for the production of the pigment melanin without destroying the pigment producing cells known as melanocytes,” she added.

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