Side Effects of Skin Bleaching: What You Need To Know
July 07, 2021 | Farah Jassawalla

Side Effects of Skin Bleaching: What You Need To Know

Skin bleaching is a method used to lighten dark areas on the skin. It is also used to get an overall lighter complexion. To execute this process, various types of products are available. These include bleaching creams, pills, and soaps. Other than these, one can also opt for professional treatments which include laser therapy and chemical peels.

Skin bleaching is not a guaranteed method for getting a lighter complexion because it does not work for some people. Besides that, many side effects and complications can arise due to it.

Let’s first go through how skin bleaching works:

How Skin Bleaching Works

There is a pigment present in the skin produced by melanocytes. This pigment is called melanin and it is responsible for skin complexion. For example, dark-skinned people have more melanin and vice versa.

Hence, the main target of skin bleaching products is to reduce melanin production and its concentration in the skin. Skin bleaching products decrease the number of melanocytes which leads to a lighter complexion.

Side Effects of Skin Bleaching 

Skin lightening and bleaching creams are not approved as safe for human use in many countries. In some, they are even banned. Skin bleaching is associated with the following complications:


This is a general term that encompasses problems regarding skin irritation. To be specific, skin bleaching products lead to contact dermatitis. It is a red itchy rash on the skin and it is caused by direct contact with a substance or an allergic reaction to it.

These are the symptoms of contact dermatitis:

      Skin ulcers


      Skin redness

      Dry skin

      Scaly skin


      Itching on the skin

      Swelling of the skin

      Burning sensation or tenderness

These symptoms vary from person to person and can be either mild or severe.

Mercury Poisoning:

Mercury is a very harmful ingredient to be present in skin products. While it is banned in some countries, it is still available in many others as a part of skin-lightening products. When applied, these products result in mercury toxicity.

It is a serious health complication and its symptoms include:

      High blood pressure



      Sensitivity to light


      Memory loss


      Kidney failure

These symptoms occur all over the body, not only on the skin.

Exogenous Ochronosis:

Exogenous ochronosis (EO) is a skin disorder involving blue-black pigmentation. It results in a complication of long-term application of skin-lightening creams containing hydroquinone.

Nephrotic Syndrome:

Nephrotic syndrome is a kidney disorder that causes your body to pass too much protein in your urine. It is caused by damage to blood vessels in the kidney that are responsible for filtering waste and excess water.

Symptoms include:

      Swelling around the eyes (edema)

      Swollen feet and ankles

      Loss of appetite


      Foamy urine

Steroid Acne:

This problem is caused specifically by those skin bleaching products that contain corticosteroids. This type of acne appears on the chest, but can also affect the back and arms.

These are the symptoms of steroid acne:

      Small red bumps

      Large red lumps

      Acne scars



Overall, there may be some benefits to skin lightening products but health risks mostly outweigh them. It is better to consult a dermatologist before using any product. Contact Shifa4U online for more information.

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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.