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Is skin bleaching dangerous?

ANSWER

Skin bleaching is a cosmetic treatment to make skin discolorations less obvious and even out skin color. You can buy bleaching creams over the counter and by prescription.

Some people apply skin lightener to their entire body to change their complexion, but this can be very risky. The active ingredient in some skin lighteners (made outside the U.S.) is mercury, so bleaching can lead to mercury poisoning. Pregnant women who use a skin lightener with mercury can pass the mercury to their unborn child.

From: Skin Lightening Treatments WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES:

Palomar College: "Skin Color Adaptation."

AcneNet: "Skin Color Changes: Spots May Fade With Right Treatment."

AgingSkinNet: "Age Spots."

Dermalogica: "Your Skin: What Causes Uneven Skin Tone?"

Georgia State University College of Arts and Sciences: "Researcher Investigates Reasons Behind Skin Bleaching With Dangerous Chemicals in Tanzania."

Minnesota Department of Health: Skin-Lightening Products Found to Contain Mercury" and "Stop Using Skin Lightening Products Containing Mercury: Health Alert for the General Public."

WHO: "Mercury in Skin Lightening Products."

Cleveland Clinic: "Understanding the Ingredients in Skin Care Products."

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner on March 6, 2019

SOURCES:

Palomar College: "Skin Color Adaptation."

AcneNet: "Skin Color Changes: Spots May Fade With Right Treatment."

AgingSkinNet: "Age Spots."

Dermalogica: "Your Skin: What Causes Uneven Skin Tone?"

Georgia State University College of Arts and Sciences: "Researcher Investigates Reasons Behind Skin Bleaching With Dangerous Chemicals in Tanzania."

Minnesota Department of Health: Skin-Lightening Products Found to Contain Mercury" and "Stop Using Skin Lightening Products Containing Mercury: Health Alert for the General Public."

WHO: "Mercury in Skin Lightening Products."

Cleveland Clinic: "Understanding the Ingredients in Skin Care Products."

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner on March 6, 2019

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What are the active ingredients in skin lighteners?

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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