Friday, October 29

Skin care - Skin whitening - Pros and cons of skin whitening

Skin whiteningSkin sensitive to touchFordyce spots

Skin whitening is achieved by cosmetic procedures which decrease melanin pigment production.

Skin color mainly depends on the amount of the pigment, melanin, produced and deposited by its epidermis layer.
Though the melanin production and deposition is primarily controlled by genetic inheritance, it is also induced by exposure to sunlight. Many other external factors also can affect the pigment production, with decreased production leading to whitening of skin and increased production leading to darkening.

What is skin whitening?

Skin whitening, lightening or bleaching are terms used to denote the various cosmetic methods used to achieve fair color.
Tyrosinase (monophenol monooxygenase) is an enzyme produced both by plants and animals.
This copper containing enzyme catalyses the oxidation of phenols.
From the phenols like tyrosine, melanin and other pigments are produced by the oxidative catalysis by tyrosinase.
Many cosmetic procedures inhibit the production of tyrosinase enzyme which in turn inhibits the production of melanin giving fairer color.

Skin whitening methods

Inhibiting tyrosinase enzyme
There are many methods for achieving fair color and most of them are aimed at inhibiting Tyrosinase (monophenol monooxygenase) enzyme to cut back melanin production.
Many topical applications use a combination of tyrosinase inhibiting chemicals and sun protective ingredients.
L-glutathione, when taken orally, works from inside inhibiting tyrosinase.
Melanocyte destruction
There are certain depigmentation agents like monobenzone which destroy the melanocytes, achieving permanent results.
Cryosurgery and laser treatments aims at controlled destruction of epidermis cells.
These methods can be applied to entire epidermis with normal color or specific areas of hyperpigmentation.

Skin whitening products

Many of the fairness products come as topical creams, gels, soaps, chemical peels or lotions.
Ammoniated mercury or mercury(II) chloride were once widely used in skin whitening topical creams; however the use of mercury products were banned due to their potent adverse effects on human body.
Hydroquinone is one of the widely used bleaching chemical in topical creams.
As it was found to cause leukemia in some animals, it was banned in European Union for cosmetic use.
Arbutin ( hydroquinone-beta-D-glucoside) is also found to be potent fairness chemical, especially in its pure forms ((alpha-arbutin, beta-arbutin, and deoxy-arbutin).
Arbutin is avialable in extracts of mulberry (Morus bombycis), paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera), white mulberry (Morus alba), bearberry (Uva ursi) and Mitracarpus scaber extract.
Azelaic acid, Tretinoin, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), kojic acid, Glycyrrhetinic acid and vitamin C are the other ingredients in the skin fairness products.
Ellagic acid, ferulic acid and vitamin E also help in getting fairer when taken orally.

Skin whitening advantages

In persons affected by hyperpigmentation (solar lentigines, melasma or chloasma), uneven pigmentation, freckling and dark spots skin fairness treatment can be of great help particularly to boost their self-confidence.
Many formulations of natural origins are being produced and marketed which are found to be harmless and are found to be effective.

Skin whitening: possible harmful effects

Many products use active ingredients like hydroquinone and mercuric chloride, which have been found to be potentially harmful and there use is restricted in cosmetic products in many advanced countries.
However these harmful products are still being produced and marketed in developing countries posing many health risks like cancer.

Related topics on skin whitening
Permanent methods
Natural tips
Discoloration problems
Skin whitening pros and cons (current topic)

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