It’s been called the gold standard of skin whitening but hydroquinone is a dangerous chemical that can have catastrophic effects on your skin and health. Due to this, all skin-whitening products containing hydroquinone have now been banned in Ghana by the country’s Food and Drug Authority. This is set to be effective starting August 2016. Here’s why banning hydroquinone is a step in the right direction and other countries should follow Ghana’s example.
The Truth about Hydroquinone
Skin bleaching has become the norm in Ghana, where paler skin tones are often thought to be associated with greater success. Bukom Banku, a boxer from the country, is a prime example of this trend. He bleached his skin in the hope of becoming Ghana’s ambassador to Germany. As he stated on an entertainment program, “I am bleaching myself for German people to know that German people and Bukom Banku are one.”
Approximately 30 percent of women in Ghana use products to bleach their skin. Elsewhere in Africa, demand for skin bleaching practices is high – up to 75 percent of Nigerian women confess to using skin bleaches, and up to 67 percent of Senegalese women do. Even in Pretoria, South Africa, 35 percent of women have joined the skin-bleaching trend. Interestingly, however, the practice is often looked down upon, with many people bleaching their skins in private.
The crazy demand for skin-bleaching products is high in Ghana and other countries, such as Kenya, thanks to a boost in the economy as well as advertising which reinforces the Snow White complex. This is the belief that European standards of beauty are the goal, causing people to lighten their skin tones, often obsessively and with dangerous consequences.
Fading Out Harmful Skin Bleach
Skin bleaching practices get taken to shocking lengths: many people will just mix together concoctions that are not administered by skin specialists or buy unlabeled products on the street. These tend to contain very high levels of hydroquinone, which is toxic. But banning bleaching ingredients such as hydroquinone not just ensures greater health, but also changes the face of society. By removing skin products that contain harmful bleach, the message is to love one’s natural skin and keep it healthy. But to really get the message across, all the billboards showcasing fair-skinned Western models and skin-bleaching products – which swarm the country of Ghana – need to be dismantled.
Dangers of Hydroquinone
Besides for Ghana, other countries have also banned hydroquinone, such as Australia and the European Union. Hydroquinone has been linked to many skin conditions, such as ochronosis, a condition in which skin takes on a darker tone or suffers blue-black patches and becomes leathery. There is no cure for it. Hydroquinone can also cause serious health conditions such as an abnormal functioning of the adrenal glands, which produce important hormones to keep the body functioning normally.
Animal studies have found that hydroquinone shows some evidence as a chemical that causes cancer. Even small quantities of hydroquinone can put you at risk, not just to skin conditions such as the above as well as skin irritation, damage to the kidneys and nerve problems, but also to allergic reactions to other skin-whitening ingredients found in such skin products.
There are alternatives to hydroquinone that don’t have to cause such shocking and chronic health conditions. Many different types of botanical extracts, such as bearberry and kojic acid, are growing in popularity because they are successful at treating hyperpigmentation without the side-effects. These don’t only have to be used for skin-lightening results but also to even out your skin tone and give you a glow without putting your health in danger. You only get one skin. Take care of it!