Skin Lightening Creams Case Study

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Long-term use of a whitening cream with topical steroids can lead to:

• Hypertension
• Elevated blood sugar
• Suppression of the body’s natural steroids
• Eczema, bacterial and fungal infections
• Pigmentation disorders
• Stretch marks
• Infertility
• Osteoporosis
• Cataracts
• Acne
• Slower wound healing
• Muscle weakness
• Cushing’s disease (malfunction of the adrenal glands leading to an overproduction of cortisol) increased appetite and weight gain
• Deposits of fat around the chest, face, back, and stomach


I have included in this chapter the research findings of two Case Studies on Mercury in Skin Lightening Creams by the NGO member Organizations supported by the Zero Mercury Working Group work as well as the
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These case studies in these countries clearly confirm two things:
1. Skin lightening practice is not just practiced by real black people
2. The skin lightening practice is a global issue

The case studies are appropriate for this book because, even though the use of mercury as an ingredient in skin lighteners is banned in the U.S., as revealed by this research work, some skin lighteners produced outside the U.S. still contain mercury.

Study has shown that nearly 1 out of every 4 skin lighteners made in Asia and sold outside the U.S. contain mercury. Considering the dangers of mercury exposure, this means that the consumers of lightening products in these other countries are at a high risk of mercury poisoning.

Harmful Effects of Extensive Skin Bleaching

Lightened or bleached skin can make the body more vulnerable to:

• UV rays, and thus skin cancer and aging due to melanin reduction
• Increased pigmentation in the following areas: Ears, buttocks, joints of the fingers and toes, skin of the face, especially around the eyes
• Creating a burn or dark patch in the outward sides of the
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Hundreds, if not thousands of them are available in the global market, on the internet and stores where cosmetics are sold.

Those that use mercury as an active ingredient often contain from 2 to 10 percent mercury by weight.

Unfortunately, the most effective ingredients, which include mercury compounds and hydroquinone, are also the cheapest, and that induces many manufacturers to use them in products, despite their well-documented toxic hazards. Additionally, in many laboratory studies, variations of the mercury chemical have been linked to increased tumors in rats and mice.

World Health Organization 2011 report on mercury use in skin lightening products:
• Mercury is a common ingredient found in skin lightening soaps and creams.
• It is also found in other cosmetics, such as eye makeup cleansing products and mascara.1–3

Skin lightening soaps and creams are commonly used in certain African and Asian nations.1,4,5

They are also used among dark-skinned populations in Europe and North America.2,6,7 Mercury salts inhibit the formation of melanin, resulting in a lighter skin tone.8,9

Mercury in Cosmetics Exists in Two

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