Scientists say that skin color is determined by the amount and type of melanin, the pigment in the skin. They tell you that whether you are fair or dark is dependent more on genetic rather than environmental causes.
Yet, people all over the world are preoccupied with the color of their skins. Fair skinned people in subtropical regions spend lots of time and energy getting tanned -- while darker skinned people in the tropics covet milky fair skin.
If you look at the last five hundred years of human history, humans have constantly labeled and stereotyped each other on the basis of skin color. Be it racism, slavery or the Asian preoccupation with `fair' brides -- people have established a hierarchical color terminology in which darker skin is seen as being of lowest social value, and lighter skin of highest.
Men in Asia are not unaffected by the fairness phenomenon. Once considered sissy, the preoccupation with skin tone has now come out of the closet with fairness cream specifically for men being introduced in the market. The cream is specially popular amongst metrosexuals.
A fairness cream that has side effects can further damage your skin and remove the possibility of enhancing your skin tone.
Time and again it has been proved in scientific journals that fairness creams do not make one fair. Here is what they can do --
Â§ They may help maintain status quo
Â§ They may contain sunscreen which controls tanning
Â§ They may contain hydroquinone, a chemical that has a bleaching effect.
Â§ However, fairness creams may also contain chemicals that can be harmful. Before you use, it is better to check out what are the ingredients of fairness cream.
How do fairness creams work
According to most dermatologists, achieving fairness up to 20% is possible, but not more than that. The fairness creams block sun rays and prevent secretion of Melanin, which gives the dark colour to the skin. So in effect fairness cream reduce tan, prevent the skin from getting darker by preventing melanin secretion; but they cannot change a person's natural skin color.
Â§ Cosmetic manufacturing companies do not declare the ingredients used in fairness creams under the guise of trade secrets. As they are registered under cosmetics license, they are not bound to disclose contents. There are hundreds of fairness products around the world, many of them illegally produced , which promise their users fairness but often end up destroying their skin and causing serious diseases like melanoma or skin cancer and kidney problems.
Â§ Most fairness creams contain a bleaching agent. Medical experts opine that if the bleaching percentage is between 3- 4 %, it is acceptable as per side effects are concerned. But most of them do not mention the percentage of the chemicals on the packets. Long-term use of these creams may cause cancer, kidney problem, irritation and disfigure the skin.
Â§ All these creams give some temporary results. So that people use it regularly.
Â§ Even creams branded as ayurvedic also contain chemical and harmful alloy of metals.
Â§ In a test at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Honk Kong on 36 fairness cream brands made all over the world, it was found that eight of them made in China and Taiwan had more mercury contents than prescribed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Â§ Most creams contain harmful ingredients that can result in side effects ranging from irritation, allergies to sun sensitivity. It may be advisable to test out a fairness cream by using it first on a small portion of your skin to find out your sensitivity to the ingredients.
Â§ Dermatologists claim that there is no such thing as a fairness cream, certainly not without using skin-bleaching agents. Some ingredients used in many fairness creams can cause serious health hazards.
Â§ Nephrotoxicity -- Nephrotoxicity refers to irritation to nephrons in the kidney, causing kidney damage.
Â§ Mercury toxicity -- Mercury toxicity includes effects like metallic taste, increased thirst, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhoea, nephritis, decreased flow of urine, colitis or constipation, tremors, anaemia, and skin problems. Mercury has adverse effects on the developing brain of a foetus.
Â§ Serious allergic reactions.
With the plethora of products and brands available in the fairness cream market, the knowledge of the ingredients, their functions and impact can help consumers make an informed choice.
The practice of trying for lighter skin tone goes back to ancient times. The fascinating range of ingredients used in those days included, saffron, walnut, turmeric, yoghurt, gram flour paste, pulses and honey.
Â§ Hydroquinone --An effective whitening agent, but known to cause skin irritation. Normally used in fairness creams in very small concentration (less than 1 percent)
Â§ Kojic Acid, a Vitamin C derivative with characteristics to block melanin production in the skin. Melanin is responsible for darkening the complexion.
Â§ Retinoic Acid, a vitamin A derivative which helps peel off the surface layers of skin, thereby getting rid of dark pigmented skin cells, is also used sometimes. In the process, the lower layers of the skin, which are somewhat lighter, come up to the surface.
Â§ Plant extracts -- These which have mild whitening qualities such as liquorice, blackberry, mulberry, grapeseedetc.
Â§ Mercury salts,
Â§ Bismuth subnitrate
Â§ Hydrogen peroxide
Â§ Magnesium peroxide
Â§ Zinc peroxide.
Â§ Vitamin B3 (niacinamide)
Â§ Mixture of US FDA- and EU-approved UV-A and UV-B sunscreens.
Â§ Ayurvedic herbs
Fairness is considered equal to attractiveness.
Â§ People use fairness creams to improve their complexion, irrespective of whether they have dark or fair complexion.
Â§ In South East Asia, not only women but men are also keen on becoming fair.
Markets for fairness creams
Â§ India and Sri Lanka has largest market
Â§ Saudi Arabia
Â§ Far East.
How to choose fairness creams?
Â§ Check the ingredients of fairness cream. Look out for harmful ingredients such as hydroquinine, mercury, steroids and bleaching agents.
Â§ Look for ingredients such as avocado oil, grape seed oil, shea butter and honey. These ingredients have shown scientifically to treat skin conditions, without causing any skin problem.
Fairness Cream for Men
Asian men no longer believe that fairness is only for women. Indian men, as well as their counterparts in other Asian countries, including Korea and Japan are turning to fairness cream. According to trade analysts, menâ€™s fairness products is valued at Rs 30 million, and constitutes 35 percent of the market.
Â§ Fairness creams can make you fair -- All fairness cream or skin whitening creams are effective only if the pigment is in the epidermis. If the pigment is deeper, the product canot help or make changes. Thus, fairness cream can help remove a tan or discoloration due to some pigment in the top layer of the skin. It cannot make a dark person fair.
Â§ Manufacturers list al their ingredients on the product label-- This is not true. Manufacturers are not required by law to mention all the ingredients on the product label.
Â§ Fair skin is better than dark skin -- Medically, dark skin is believed to be less vulnerable to skin diseases than light skin. More melanin in dark skins provides protection from the sun and, in turn, disease. Light skin contains less melanin and thus less protection.
Â§ Ayurvedic or herbal fairness creams have no chemicals -- This is a myth. Only home remedies for fairness can be free of chemicals. All commercial products have chemical bases that give them the texture and consistency and preservatives that prevent them from going bad.
Â§ Herbal ingredients have no side effects -- A person can be allergic to plant based herbal ingredients also. It is advisable that they apply the cream to a small area on their hands before using them.
Â§ When a couple, with one dark-skinned and one light-skinned partner, have a child, the child will usually inherit the dark skin. This is simply because nature makes the better choice.
Â§ Most fairness cream manufacturers vouch for the safety of their products saying that they do not use any harmful ingredients. However, the few ingredients stated on the labels of these fairness creams cannot make a person fair, though the advertisements for these products claim that people can become several shades lighter in four to six weeks. Manufacturers do not disclose the other ingredients claiming that it their trade secret. The user has no way of verifying the manufacturers' claims.
Â§ For effective lightening, you will need to find a high quality fairness cream. Otherwise, you'll most likely see fleeting results, and may even experience some allergic reactions and other complications.
Â§ When you look for a fairness cream, check if the product includes an extract of extrapone nutgrass. Extrapone nutgrass has the special ability to lighten your skin tone, without showing any side effects.
Â§ Look for ingredients such as avocado oil, grapeseed oil, shea butter and active manuka honey. These ingredients have shown scientifically to treat skin conditions, without causing any skin problem