The market of fairness creams in Pakistan is flourishing and there is no surprise in it at all when they give you promising messages like “FAIRNESS THAT CHANGES YOUR DESTINY” and icing on the cake those TV ads of young girls worried sick of their dark skin and than they use skin whitening creams, which changes their dark color to white miraculously in just 5 to 7 days. After that, they are either shown as brides or receiving appreciations from opposite gender. Unfortunately these TV ads are now also playing with the psyche of males. They show that in order to achieve success ,to marry your dream girl/boy, to gain attention from your friends or to get a job, all you need is “fair skin”.
I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
(Martin Luther King)
This is a serious cause of concern for the human right activists with respect to the overt message of the ad and their false claims that a fair skin color is better than all other colors ranging from medium to dark, generating negative values in society, causing emotional distress and hurting the self esteem of both men and women. Recently a petition named “DARK IS BEAUTY” was filed against a famous Indian film star for unfair proclamation . This also raises many questions on our country’s existing advertisement law and consumer protection law which aims to provide customers with COMPLETE protection.
I do agree the messages are quiet catchy indeed, but is the risk of getting a white skin worth it. What they don’t tell us is about the hidden ingredients in it, their side effects and stories that how people are suffering from continuous use of these products.Long term use of any skin whiteners can cause severe pigmentation in areas where you apply it daily.The skin thins out and the area specially around the eyes can have increased pigmentation leading to bleach panda effect. Skin whitening creams usually contains active ingredients such as steroids,mercury and hydroquinone.
“Unfortunately, many skin-lightening creams contain illegal compounds that can damage your health .The most common compounds are high-dose steroids.” (Indy Rihal of the British Skin Foundation).
Steroids although are useful when used in specific concentrations in skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis but when used for skin lightening purpose they can cause many side effects such as;
- permanent skin bleaching
- thinning of skin that causes exposed cappilleries and stretch marks
- uneven colour loss, leading to a blotchy appearance
- redness of skin
- intense irritation
- photo sensitivity reactions
- high blood sugar ( yes!! due to steroids)
- increased facial hair growth
Another chemical which is found abundantly specially in local/ household manufactured skin lightening creams, soaps and mascaras is Mercury. Mercury inhibits the formation of melanin thus lightening the skin but, it is extremely poisonous. World health organization in its report on Mercury in skin lightening products reported that
“Mercury in cosmetics exists in two forms: inorganic and organic. Inorganic mercury (e.g. ammoniated mercury) is used in skin lightening soaps and creams. Organic mercury compounds (thiomersal [ethyl mercury] and phenyl mercuric salts) are used as cosmetic preservatives in eye makeup cleansing products and mascara”
The type (most hazardous is the organic form ) and concentration of mercury being used is so high that it can directly absorb from skin into blood stream and cause severe side effects The main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.Mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.Other effects include anxiety,shyness, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy.
“Exposure to mercury can have serious health consequences, It can damage the kidneys and the nervous system, and interfere with the development of the brain in unborn children and very young children.” ( Charles Lee, M.D., a senior medical advisor at FDA)
The distribution and sale of mercury containing cosmetics is banned in many European countries and FDA allows mercury compounds in cosmetics used around eye area at concentrations at or below 65 mg/kg expressed as mercury (approximately 100 mg/kg expressed as phenyl-mercuric acetate or nitrate).All other cosmetics must contain mercury at a concentration less than 1 mg/kg. There is a need to raise public awareness regarding this matter. Health authorities have to play their role in changing the status of fairness creams from OTC products to strictly prescription only skin products so that its sale and usage can be monitored.
So all of you skin color, clarity and complexion conscious people out there first of all ” YOU ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL!! “ . Second before buying any product please read the ingredients and if it claims to contain “steroid” “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury,” do not buy it and if you are using it than stop using them immediately. If there is no label or no ingredients are listed or is in a foreign language that you can not understand do not buy it. Because you are “WORTH IT” and you deserve to know that what is the magic behind the cosmetic products. So next time before you buy any fairness creams ask you self this question
“Is the manufacturer of this fairness cream really fair ?? and is the risk of getting a lighter skin tone worth it? “