While skin bleaching is a billion-dollar industry, the World Health Organization and other organizations want everyone to put down those “toxic” creams and to “[avoid them] at all costs.”
While the WHO claims that these creams are not only high in mercury, the UK’s Local Government Association reported that they “act like paint stripper and increase the risk of cancer.”
“Hydroquinone can remove the top layer of skin, increasing the risk of skin cancer and cause fatal liver and kidney damage,” the LGA found. “Mercury can cause similar life-threatening health problems.”
According to CNN, these creams also are linked to depression, bacterial and fungal infections, and anxiety.
While in the U.S. the products aren’t banned, in the UK those with harmful ingredients are, but officials in Britain have noticed an influx of illegal products being sold at local markets, which is sparking a potential health crisis.
“Skin creams containing banned ingredients are very dangerous and could seriously damage your health, scar you for life and even kill you, so they should be avoided at all costs,” said Blackpool Councilor Simon Blackburn in the press release.
But it’s important to point out that this issue isn’t just a UK issue. See, skin bleaching is an estimated 20 billion dollar industry around the world, being especially popular in African, Asian and Caribbean countries. According to Business Insider, 70 percent of women in Nigeria alone are using a lightening product.
Colorism is real.
This warning isn’t the only time skin bleaching creams have made recent headlines.
Last week, two Japanese comedians joked that tennis star Naomi Osaka, who is both Haitian and Japanese, should bleach her skin because she’s too dark. When folks got wind of this, they dragged the duo on social media and sparked an apology from them later.