By Serwaa Ampaafo

Some bleaching creams on the African market.
Photo: wiki

Africans have a bleaching problem and cosmetic companies have always capitalized on that to cash in. Bleaching  is a billion dollar industry with majority of consumers from Africa but little do the consumers know that most of the components used in skin whitening products are known carcinogenic substances i.e. they are cancer-causing substances. Different products can lead to different side effects.

Constant use of skin lightening products has now proven to cause cell mutation and damage due to the absorption by the skin. These products also cause the production of free radical cells in your body that causes cancer. While cancer is the ultimate effect, organ failure, brain damage, psychosis, depression, blood sugar irregularity etc. are some of the more noticeable immediate consequence.

Rodent studies involving very high doses of hydroquinone administered by feeding tube showed the potential to cause cancer, according to the FDA report on hydroquinone skin bleaching products. 

Any skin colour is beautiful and there is value in diversity but sadly most Africans do not understand this. Resorting to using dangerous chemicals to lighten skin without knowing its effects is causing people their lives. Research also shows that these creams are designed in such a way that they make the skin dependent on them once they are introduced to the body. 

This means once one start using them, they potentially can never stop using them due to the negative effects they may experience; from sudden extreme darkening of the skin to skin dulling. Below are some of the ingredients in body creams that are known to bleach the skin to result in cancer


While proven to be effective, it is also proven to be a carcinogen. Up to 2% regulated use has been allowed in most countries in over-the-counter products, but more than 4% use is dangerous and toxic to the human body.


It’s a well-known fact that mercury is a toxic substance. It can cause kidney failure and damage to the nervous system. Its another unregulated ingredient in most countries. We try to avoid mercury in our food, but mercury is, in fact, present in skin lightening products and easily absorbed by the skin.


Steroids (or corticosteroids) in skin care products cause  thinning of the blood vessels. This causes less blood to flow to your skin to give it a pale look. However, in the long run, this can affect blood pressure levels, blood sugar levels, cause depression and headaches. It also thins the skin so as to reduce melanin but this actually causes sensitivity to sun and UV rays.

ubstances and proven to cause animal cancer, especially above a minimum limit.


This is a toxic substance used to emulsify skin creams and can contaminate cosmetics. It is unregulated in most countries.


Fragrances are used to make the skin cream or product smell nice. They usually tend to be volatile substances and can cause skin irritation and itchiness due to dryness and even inflammation in some cases.

Always try to find out about what ingredients present in creams before introducing them onto the body; consult a professional if there are any difficulties.




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