Skin bleaching is a practice which involves the usage of chemical substances so as to lighten the skin tone or to even it by reducing the concentration of a pigment responsible for a darker skin complexion known as melanin. There are many people in this world who would fancy having a fair complexion that makes them attractive. Some of them are ready to take up anything that promises them to make their skin tone lightened. Owning to this aspect about the human love to have fair complexion many skin bleaching products have entered the market. Some of them are quite effective in producing the desired results. However, there are also such products which are highly toxic and pose potential threats.
The areas of the skin where melanin is concentrated in abnormally high amounts which are responsible for the birthmarks and moles can be treated with the help of skin bleaching products so that the treated region will get lightened and matches with the color in the surrounding region. In other cases such as vitiligo, in contrast to the above, the region that is unaffected will also get lightened so that the complexion of the skin on the whole gets a uniform appearance. However, the long term usage may cause some problems such as pigmentation in the joints of toes, fingers, ears and buttocks.
The quite commonly used skin bleaching products aim at reducing the production of the melanin by holding back tyrosinase. Most of these treatments employ the usage of gels or lotions that contain the ingredients that are capable of inhibiting the melanin production along with prescription retinoid and a sunscreen. These are available both in the form of chemical peels or topical cosmetics. With the advancement of technology, the LED systems are also being used which have already proved to produce good results.
The skin bleaching products that can lighten the complexion of the skin can be classified in to three types depending on the mechanism followed by the product to bring in the result. One of such product involves the usage of tretonoin. It is known to be quite effective for providing treatments for skin discolorations. However, while using it one should keep themselves away from sunlight as it increases the sensitiveness of the skin to UVA rays. This comes under pre-melanin synthesis category.
Hydroquinone is an important topical ingredient that is capable of reducing the melanin production and is one of the ingredients used in skin bleaching products that come under the category of the products that are used during the phase of melanin synthesis. This is used either alone or also in combination with tretinoin. It mainly works by disrupting the melanin production. However this is banned in some countries because of it being capable of increasing the risks of cancer. But hydroquinone based drugs are still available in many countries and in the United States it can be obtained over the counter (OTC). African women are the ones who are more likely to get affected by the side effects of the products containing hydroquinone.
Arbutin that comes under the same category as above also acts as melanin-inhibitor. When it is used in pure form it can contribute to the lightening of the skin color. Kojic acid, Azelaic acid, Vitamin C, Cinnamomum subavenium are some other agents that can be used in skin bleaching products for achieving the purpose. While Kojic acid and azelaic acid cause some kind of allergic side effects, cinnanmomum subavenium is believed to be quite safe and free from side effects. Studies have proved that it is capable of removing the stripes in Zebrafish.
Some of the skin bleaching products adopt a different action mechanism and do not produce the effect by inhibiting the production of melanin. They start showing their effect after the melanin is synthesized. Alpha hydroxyl acids is one of the important ingredients from which the products of this type are manufactured. These products help in removing those layers of the skin which are formed due to the accumulation of the hyperpigmented cells. The alpha hydroxyl acid peels can help in getting away with the skin discolorations. However, these should be strictly performed only by a certified physician. Niacinamide is often viewed as an alternative without any adverse side effects. Besides it also helps in reducing acne and wrinkles and keeps the skin moisturized.
Besides the above three categories that are classified depending on their working on melanin production, there are yet other agents which are used in skin bleaching products. Monobenzone is the agent hat can lessen the pigment which is sometimes permanent in the people with vitiligo. Also mequinol can also be used for an extended time period to produce this effect. However, monobenzone is often prescribed only for vitiligo. Mercury is also used as an active ingredient in some of the whiteners. But it is also banned in many countries because it produces negative effects in the long run.
Besides the above mentioned ones, some treatments are also available for improving the complexion of the skin. The development in technology has made available the laser treatment for this purpose too. Ablative and nonablative laser treatments have proved to be effective in producing immense positive results on melasma. However, this is not suitable for the people with darker skin complexions. Cryosurgery is an alternative to the laser treatment which involves the destruction of the skin cells in a controlled manner and helps the skin to regenerate naturally. The melanin that is present in the body in excess comes by itself to the surface and gets peeled off.
However there are many controversies against the usage of the skin bleaching products on the grounds of health concerns. Some argue that the ingredients used in the products are very active which may be harmful when used. But there are products in the market that are free from any dangerous side effects and most of these drugs are expensive because of the costly ingredients used in them. Nonetheless, there are many people who rely on these products to get a fairer skin to improve their looks.