Love the skin you’re in

2016-11-09 06:01


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BEING comfortable in your own skin is what the Department of Health has been promoting over the past few months while encouraging people to stay away from skin-lightening creams, which have very serious consequences.

“Again, we reaffirm confidence and pride in oneself and declare that skin bleaching represents a profound, yet subliminal hatred of one’s self. It is time indigenous Africans and Indians embrace natural beauty and love the skin they are in,” said KZN Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo.

According to CANSA’s health specialist, Professor Michael Herbst, the incidence of skin cancer is said to be higher among individuals who use skin whiteners.

“Skin lightening, available as creams, capsules, are commonly known as bleaching creams, whiteners, skin brighteners, or fade, work by reducing a pigment called melanin in the skin.

“Most people use lighteners to lighten their skin, which has become a fad among many individuals with dark skin tones, while others use it to treat ‘skin problems’ such as freckles, age spots, acne scars, or discoloration related to hormones,” he said.

Herbst explained that by thinning the skin and less melanin, people are more likely to experience skin damage due to UV radiation thus increasing their risk of skin cancer and ageing.

Repeated use of skin whitening creams may cause thinning of the skin, a condition that may be characterised by severe bruising, exposed capillaries, stretch marks and other serious problems. Acne suffers also use creams, which includes steroids, to lighten their scars however these creams can cause blocked pores and lead to the development of new acne.

“There is also a link between skin-lightener cream use and diabetes,” said Herbst.

High blood sugar can lead to diabetes. Some creams can cause increased bold sugar levels, which is risky for those who are already diabetic.

Ochronosis, dark patches on the skin, are a possible risk of repeated skin whitening. These patches are on the surface of the skin and are particularly stubborn and difficult to remove.

Use of these creams could also increase the risk of developing leukoderma, a skin condition where certain areas of skin stop producing melanin. Once the skin stops producing melanin, patches of pink skin appear.

“Most of the products cause thinning of the skin, early ageing, as well as skin cancers. Very often users complain of ‘white spots’ appearing on their skin. Many of the products contain mercury, certain steroids, vitamin A, or hydroquinone,” said Herbst.

Mercury causes kidney and nerve damage, and can lead to psychiatric problems. It is banned in cosmetics in South Africa.

Hydroquinone is permitted only in prescribed medicines, and then only in concentrations below 2%, because it can cause permanent damage to the skin.

The two topical steroids identified were betamethasone and clobetasol propionate, which are classed as medicines and are, therefore, illegal in products marketed as cosmetics. These products thin the skin and make it prone to infection.

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