One of the fastest growing sectors of the beauty industry is also one of its most controversial. Skin Bleaching, When the color of your skin can determine your future, how far would you go to be lighter? Skin bleaching, also known as skin lightening or whitening, is a global market to grow to over 24 billion dollars in the next decade.
Advertisements of skin bleaching products can be seen across the globe. Asia holds the lion’s share of the market, and the heart of it lies in the Philipines. With one of the highest rates of use in the world. The Philipines is a country on the economic rise, and its new money fuels the possibility of rapid social mobility. One of the most popular strategies to get a leg up is skin bleaching.
But at what cost?
It’s estimated that 1 in 2 Filipinos have tried skin bleaching products. One of the most popular processes in the Philippines is an IV drip. Which is a mix of glutathione and Vitamin C. The star ingredient, glutathione, is a controversial antioxidant to lighten the skin from the inside out. It hasn’t been approved for cosmetic use by the FDA. Still, people are willing to drop hundreds of dollars per session, taking on the risk, in hopes of getting whiter.
Videos online and in the news have emerged showing harmful side effects of some of these products. Across the Philippines, women have reported signs of mercury poisoning. The culprit: cheap skin bleaching creams that often sell for a little over a dollar. This kind of whitening cream can buy everywhere. A variety of ingredients can be used for skin whitening. The basic idea is to slow melanin production. The less melanin, the whiter the skin. Vitamin C, hydroquinone, and kojic acid are some of the most common ones. But one of the cheapest and deadliest is mercury, a heavy metal that can be toxic for humans even in tiny doses.
Repeated exposure, like smearing it on your face every day, can lead to tumors, kidney failure, and even birth defects. Because they are so toxic, these mercury-laced creams are banned by most governments in the world. But those are still flooding into Asian countries like the Philippines at an alarming rate.
Philippine customs agents actually think that they are doing people a favor by allowing cheap creams with mass appeal to hit the market. Since few can afford high-end treatments.
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