Skin-lightening creams do exactly what they say they do — they lighten your skin. But they’re not all as they seem, and there are actually a whole lot of risks that come with using them. In fact, the Local Government Association (LGA) in the U.K. has even gone as far to say that products like skin-lightening creams should be “avoided at all costs” (via BBC). As Claire Chang, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology, told Vogue, “Skin bleaching treatments are largely unregulated,” she explains. “There are a lot of ‘skin whitening’ products and treatments out on the market with little or no medical evidence.”

And Simon Blackburn, chairman of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, agreed, telling the BBC that many skin-lightening products contain banned ingredients. “Skin creams containing banned ingredients are very dangerous and could seriously damage your health, scar you for life and even kill you, so they should be avoided at all costs,” Blackburn explained. Yikes!

Skin-lightening creams can cause serious damage

No matter where you are located in the world, if you’ve made the decision to use a skin-lightening cream, you need to be really wary of hydroquinone. “Consumers should always check the ingredients of their skin creams, be suspicious of very low prices which are likely to indicate the lotion is fake and potentially harmful, and never use a product containing hydroquinone,” warned Blackburn (via BBC). 

According to the British Skin Foundation (via Glamour), hydroquinone is a big no-no as it is known for “inhibiting production of the pigment melanin, which gives skin its colour. Its overuse has been linked with a blue grey pigmentation known as ochronosis developing in the skin. It can damage elastin strands in the skin causing premature ageing and weakening of skin.” Worse still, “Long term, widespread use can cause problems with the nerves and liver.” Always read the ingredients on the label, and be extra wary about buying any skin-lightening cream online — or anywhere, for that matter.

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