If the Indian advertising industry is to be believed then any girl who is jobless, not getting married, and is being bullied by her college friends and neighborhood aunties should be gifted a fairness cream. Not very sure if that changes her skin color but it definitely changes the definition of success. The sun-kissed Indians who have always been enchanted by sawanli surat of Shri Krishna somehow found the Britishers the most beautiful species on earth. 

Indian got its first fairness cream in the year 1919 and it has been 20 years since, in 2000,  Dr. R K Pandhi, a dermatologist at A.I.I.M.S Delhi declared, “I have never come across a medical study that substantiated such claims. But the tradition of the century has continued and grown to reach even the poorest of the country. It does not come only in the form of cream but also soap which evidently remains on the skin for a few minutes. We continue to be fooled as celebrities continue to endorse the brands paying them crores from our hard-earned money.

Maybe, the fairness cream available in a packet costing as low as 25/- do not put in the right components in the right composition to make a perfect formula that chemistry believes exists and can do miracles. Substances like bleach that decolorizes unwanted facial hair are surely effective. Similarly when it comes to lightening the skin any chemical that reduces melanin content is all that one needs. 

Following are the chemicals with their claimed benefits and alleged side effects:-

Hydroquinone: It is a skin-lightening chemical that reduces the number of melanocytes to reduce acne scars, age spots, and freckles. It works best for fair toned skin and can cause irritation and dryness in cases of sensitive skin. This is used as a substance of treatment of hyperpigmentation and is often combined with AHA i.e. Alpha hydroxy acid. It is banned in the US and regulatory authorities have requested the same to EU, Japan, and Australian agencies. In an experiment done on rats, this substance was found to increase instances of the tumor. While some say 2% is a safe limit, the amount of absorption by the skin can be a major determinant of the magnitude of side effects. 

Mercury and lead: Heavy metals are found in a variety of personal care products like eyeliner, lipstick, whitening toothpaste. While metals like iron are naturally found in the body, some metals may act as contaminants. Lead is a well-known neurotoxin that can cause language learning and behavioral problems. Mercury gets highly absorbed in the skin and causes hormonal changes, reduces fertility, and can even damage the fetus. It is hard to detect their presence as it is rarely mentioned on product contents so all that one can do is minimize the use of color bars. 

Alpha hydroxy acid: Frequently used in chemical peels they have the ability to soften defining lines and wrinkles. They are a group of carboxylic compounds that can be synthetic or naturally found. Human skin has an avascular epidermis and a vascular dermis and for any fairness cream to be effective the contents must pass these layers and reach live cells. Glycolic acid which is a type of AHA has a profound dermal effect and can make photodamaged skin thicker. It can help in keratinization which is the development of a new dermal layer made up of keratin, the material out of which nails, hair, and horns are made up of. Although it is a weak acid, its chemical composition allows for the formation of a hydrogen bond which can cause redness and skin flaking.

Steroids: The desire for instant results has made the public buy this steroid injected fairness creams over the counter even without doctors’ prescription. Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory used to treat skin allergies but their presence in fairness skin has increased risk for healthy skin. It can lead to a pimple-like eruption, facial hair growth, and widening of blood vessels along with permanent red scars. The cream can sometimes act like cortisol, a hormone that helps deal with stress. A sudden stoppage of fairness cream after regularly applying can turn off the hormones of natural products in the body and make the person seriously ill. 

As researches were conducted more such harmful chemicals were found and reported. Regulations were put in place that would set permissible limits. This made many skeptical about the toxicity that people were buying for thousands. That’s when the industry found a new way to save itself. 

They made us find the most unnatural way of regaining our natural beauty. Now they mix it with aloe vera, neem, apricot extracts along with honey and everything between green and organic. Companies like ponds come up with face wash and creams made of pearl extracts. Even if all these are to show benefits, it still contains preservatives made up of formaldehyde and parabens. The same chemicals were found in tissues of 18 out of 20 breast cancer samples and have been classified as carcinogenic. These substances present beyond a certain limit and when the skin is long exposed to it can cause skin irritation and breathlessness. 

We know that fairness creams are actually a complex combination of chemicals and so is our skin. There can be as many products as there are skins. Chemicals might suit but higher chances are they might not. So the solution lies in living a healthy lifestyle while only occasionally using heavy fairness cosmetics like instant skin glow or instant whitening powder. 

However, there is more to it as scientists are involved in integrating AI with biochemical study to make customized personal care products so much so that any advertisement will not just consist of features of the product but also the features of the skin type it is suitable for.

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