The demand for fairness creams has seen an exponential growth over the last few years. Our cultural preference for a fair skin and the belief that beauty is associated with fairness are contributing factors to the increased demand and use of fairness creams. Fairness creams are basically cosmetic creams that are also called skin lighteners, bleaching creams, whiteners etc. These creams work by reducing melanin in the skin and thus lighten the skin tone. Fairness creams basically contain an active ingredient or a mixture of ingredients that reduce the melanin in the skin where these creams are applied.
The basic ingredients of a fairness cream
Fairness creams contain the following ingredients that ensure that the skin tone gets lightened and thus the skin appears fairer.
- Hydroquinone: This is an ingredient which is most commonly used in fairness creams. Hydroquinone is a bleaching agent that restricts and inhibits the production of the enzyme that produces melanin and thus this leads to decreased production of melanin in the skin.
- Kojic Acid: This is a natural and potent skin lightening substance. Kojic acid is abundantly found in mushrooms. Kojic acid lightens the skin by preventing the synthesis of melanin and also does not allow it to reach the upper layers. Thus it lightens the epidermis of the skin.
- Arbutin: Arbutin is a natural skin lightening product that is obtained from berries. Arbutin has bleaching properties and lightens the skin tone by reducing the production of melanin.
- Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid: Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a natural ingredient that is obtained from citrus fruits. Vitamin C is an anti- oxidant that interferes in the various stages of melanin production. Thus, it leads to lesser melanin production and lightens the skin tone.
- Lactic Acid: Lactic acid is obtained from milk or yoghurt. Lactic acid has exfoliating properties that removes the dead skin cells from the epidermis and thus gives a lighter skin tone. Lactic acid also increases the production of new skin cells that do not contain the pigment melanin and these cells give an even and lighter tone to the skin, thus making it appear fairer.
- Retinoic Acid: Retinoic acid is obtained from Vitamin A and has repairing and healing properties. Retinoic acid repairs damaged skin cells and enable the skin to regain its original color. It does not have bleaching properties but reduces melanin and gives an even skin tone by distributing the existing melanin more evenly.
Fairness creams are used by a lot of people these days. But to many it may come as a surprise that these creams do have adverse side effects. These adverse side effects may vary from mild irritation to severe skin problems. Fairness creams that claim to give fair skin in a few days contain many harmful substances apart from the above mentioned ingredients. Fairness creams are said to contain high content of mercury, lead, nickel, chromium and even steroids. Mercury may lead to skin and kidney diseases. Chromium may cause cancer. Steroids may have several negative health effects.
Harmful effects of fairness creams
- Itching is one of the most harmful effects of fairness creams. Itching may be mild to severe and may lead to several other skin problems and diseases. Itching may break out soon after the application of the cream.
- Allergies may occur if a person is allergic to any of the ingredients found in the fairness creams. Allergy may be simple itching, skin irritation, redness and in the worst case, edema.
- Skin cancer is perhaps the most harmful effect of fairness creams. Chemicals like mercury, hydroquinone found in fairness creams are cancerous.
- Pimples are also caused by fairness creams if they are oil based. If the fairness creams used are too oily, they clog the skin pores and cause pimples as well as scars.
- The regular use of fairness cream can make the skin photo- sensitive. This in turn makes the skin prone to sun burns, blisters and pigmentation.
With so many harmful effects of fairness creams, it is better to opt for natural remedies to get a fairer and lighter skin tone. For a fair skin, it is essential to take a healthy balanced diet, drink lots of water and get quality sleep. To get a fair skin, one must use home-made packs and scrubs instead of opting for fairness creams.