What is Skin Bleaching and Lightening?
Do you have any areas of dark skin that you want to lighten? You are not alone – millions of people wish to whiten their skin. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, hyperpigmentation is one or more patches or areas of your skin that becomes a darker shade than the skin surrounding it. Millions of people, men and women deal with dark skin patches or spots and can be caused by a variety of reasons including skin type, race, age, exposure to elements, hygiene and nutrition.
A dark pigmented, small and sharply circumscribed macule that is surrounded by skin pigmented normally and usually caused by age is one example of hyperpigmentation. These spots are known as lentigo spots. Other examples of this skin condition are moles and birthmarks.
If you feel these spots detract from your appearance, you may want to lighten or whiten them to get an appearance more uniform in color of your skin. To achieve this, a person would use organic or synthetic substances such as creams or ointments, physical treatments or surgery to lighten the skin color of these spots or areas.
It’s all about the amount of melanin in the person’s skin. What’s melanin? Melanin is the pigment that gives a person the color of his or her skin, eyes or hair. Therefore, a dark-skinned person has more melanin than a light-skinned person. All a person has to do to get rid of dark skin areas or spots is to reduce the amount of melanin at the sight of the spot.
History of Skin Lightening and Bleaching
Dark skin and spots are frequently believed to be caused by age by most people. However, they are not caused by age. Their cause can more often be traced to genetic factors, hygiene, cosmetics and sun exposure over the years. Brown spots may appear on a person’s hands or face. These spots are brown or grayish uniformly colored areas that may show up on a person’s face, hands, chest or neck. .
Over the years, dark skin has been treated several ways – through preventive measures, over the counter creams, natural remedies and dermatologists. Over the counter formulations such as prescription-strength retinol and HQ have been found to work fast but may not be the best fit for all.
Sometime dark spots or skin have been lightened by dermatologists using chemical peels, microdermabrasion, laser treatments and chemical spot treatments. Just one of these treatments will do the trick, but some may take two or three procedures.
Products such as over-the-counter controversial hydroquinone preparation are most popular in the inhibition of production of melanin. Age spots should be checked by a dermatologist every year to establish they are indeed harmless. Any changes in their size, feel, shape or color should be reported to your dermatologist.
The so-called age spots are not the only reason for people to lighten skin. Some Africans and Asians also seek to whiten or lighten their overall appearance of their skin. Read on for the reasons.
Body Areas People Try to Lighten
Besides body areas of the face, hands, chest or neck mentioned above, people also try to lighten areas that include the underarms, private areas (vagina & vulva, anal and penis bleaching), knees and elbows.
One medical condition that frequently causes darkening of a someone intimate areas is known as acanthosis nigricans (AN) according to The American Academy of Dermatology. AN dark skin also occurs on the neck, in the armpit area and in the groin. Besides the dark coloration, the skin is also thick and when touched feels velvety and smooth.
People of African descent often inherit this condition. However, this condition also occurs if a person has a glandular disorder, is obese or has diabetes. Medications such as oral contraceptive can also cause acanthosis nigricans. It is all of these body areas people try to lighten the dark colorations should they occur.
Why People Whiten Their Skin and Where is Bleaching the Skin Popular
At this time, skin lightening has become the rage in Nigeria and Asia. Even though the practice can be dangerous, it is still popular with some people. When a skin lightening product sold out in just one day in Nigeria, this seemed to prove this controversial practice. An example of the notoriety of lightening skin is Cameroonian-Nigerian pop star Dencia. Her face now appears visibly paler than when she first started her career.
San Francisco State University conducted a study of African Americans on the topic of lightening their skin. The study concluded that many popular African Americans appear to be several shades lighter than the true color of their skin. The study pointed out the results which demonstrated people act in accordance with a belief that “whiter” skin is a more favorable characteristic. According to psychologists, a principal reason people bleach their skin seems to be a type of self-hate and low self-esteem.
Lighter skin is believed to be associated with personal attributes that are more positive globally. This affects Asian and black communities the most. A study conducted by the University of Cape Town conducted in 2013 found that as many as one woman in three bleaches her skin in South Africa. The desire for white skin led these women to use skin-lighteners.
According to the World Health Organization, the highest users of skin-lighteners are Nigerians. Skin-lighteners are used regularly by as many as 77 percent of Nigerian women. 59 percent of women of Togo use skin-lighteners, 35 percent in South Africa and 25 percent in Mali.
In her blog, Myne Whitman pointed out that skin-lightener’s products are often used to remove spots or to even a person’s overall skin tone, and the reason for their use was not due to an inferior feeling caused by their dark complexion. She continued to explain that her face is darker than her body and when she was a teen she wanted an even overall tone appearance.
Skin Lightening by Black Women in America
Bill Duke and D Channsin Berry have produced a documentary entitled Dark Girls. The main focus of the documentary was dark-skinned American black women and their everyday experiences. The purpose of the documentary was to reveal the hatreds and biases of racism in America.
In this documentary, the role of melanin in the lives of black women was discussed. Asking her mother to add bleach to her bathwater, one woman explained that she did this in an attempt to “escape the feelings that I had about not being as beautiful, as lovable”. Another woman added, “It was so damaging, it made us feel like we were ‘less than’ “.
The documentary also reports on a pilot study of school children conducted in 2010. The children were shown pictures of dolls whose color ranged from light to dark. A five-year-old black girl was asked by the researcher to point out the doll representing the smartest child. The five-year-old black girl pointed out the picture of the doll with the lightest skin. When asked which is the picture of the most good-looking child, she again pointed out the picture of the doll with the lightest skin. When asked why she chose the pictures she chose, she said it was “because she’s white” and “she’s light-skinned”. When asked to select the ugliest and the dumbest child, she selected the darkest doll. When asked why, she answered “cause she’s black”.
Skin Darkening Caused by Medications
All too often, people must take medication for diabetes, hypertension and heart disease and unfortunately these medications cause allergic reactions. These allergic reactions often lead to dark patches known as hyperpigmentation. The disfiguring dark patches include: photosensitivity reactions, fixed drug eruptions, drug-induced hyperpigmentation and secondary post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation drug eruptions.
Skin Lightening or Whitening Methods
Techniques of skin lightening and skin bleaching vary. To get the desired effect, different type products are used. A person may use chemical products to whiten his or her skin. In order to reduce the person’s melanin concentration, products combining constituents are combined. These constituents may also exfoliate the skin. Skin bleaching or whitening products include: Kojik acid, hydroquinone, Arbutin, Tretinoin, and Vitamin C.
Skin bleaching or whitening home-made products can be used to naturally bleach or whiten a person’s skin. The ingredients of these homemade products commonly include: milk, lemon, papaya and eggs among many others.
Besides homemade products and commercial products, a person can get quick results from medical procedures only done in a hospital or specialist office. These medical procedures include: laser resurfacing, dermabrasion and chemical peel. The top layer of a person’s skin is removed by these procedures allowing a new skin to show. The new skin will be a lighter and even tone but can be costly and have side effects.
- Age Spots:
- Body Areas People Try to Whiten:
- Why Do Some Black Women Want to Bleach Out Their Beauty?
- Skin Whitening Becoming the Rage in Nigeria:
- Dark Girls Documentary Review:
- Nigerian Pop Star Whitens Her Skin:
- Skin Whitening Techniques: