Skin bleaching is the process of using bleaching agents to lighten the skin's pigment. It may be used to lighten areas of the skin darkened by hyperpigmentation, pregnancy or acne. It is also controversially used in African and Asian cultures to lighten whole sections of the skin.
According to a story reported on Jamaicans.com, people use skin bleaching because they believe light-skinned people are more attractive and are treated better. Others use it to even out their skin tone.
Bleaching darker patches of skin to match the color of the surrounding skin can take a long time. Dermadoctor.com estimates it can take up to one year or more.
According to DermaDoctor.com, hydroquinone, mitracarpus scaber extract, beta carotene, dithiaoctanediol, licorice extract, arctostaphylos uva ursi leaf extract, gluconic acid, azelic acid, kojic acid and vitamin C are ingredients used in bleaching agents.
Bleaching agents can damage the skin, causing severe acne, dark marks, or wrinkling. Overuse of bleaching agents with hydroquinone can cause nausea, shortness of breath, delirium, and convulsions—signs of a fatal overdose.
According to Public Radio International, some people use illegal bleaching agents because legal agents are too expensive, which can be dangerous. Illegal agents may contain toxic levels of mercury or illegal ingredients that can disfigure the face.