Dermatologists in Australia have warned about the potential hazards of using commercially available skin-whitening products which may contain chemicals that irritate and redden the skin.
The warning comes amid anecdotal reports of increasing use of such products in Australia, reflecting demographic and cultural changes in the broader population. In some Asian cultures, having darker skin is associated with a lower social status, such as manual labourers and farm workers.
Skin-whitening products, however, can contain chemicals, such as hydroquinone, which are not disclosed on the product label, or are written in a foreign language, and which can have harmful side-effects.
“There has been a slow, but gradual, increase in the number of patients using these [products] and therefore [also] the number of side-effects,” Dr Michelle Rodrigues, from the Australasian College of Dermatologists, told ABC Media.
“There are real risks and only theoretical benefits.
“The majority of patients that see me about lightening have a preconceived idea that this is more beautiful and this stems from very deep-seated cultural and historical beliefs that this perhaps leads to increased employment or marital opportunities.”
The TGA said hydroquinone, which is banned in most European countries, was the most commonly found chemical used in treatments being sold in pharmacies and beauty stores here.
While there were only six cases of adverse reactions to hydroquinone listed on the TGA database, the increasing interest in these products was still a cause for concern.