Categorized | Skin Care

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Top 3 Dangerous Skin Lightening Ingredients

The dangers of hydroquinone are highly publicized but there are some other skin whitening ingredients that are equally dangerous if not more so. When looking for an effective skin lightening product, it is best to choose one that will give you great results but not at the risk of jeopardising your health.


Hydroquinone is one of the most common skin lightening ingredients around. Although it is banned in Europe and most parts of the world, it can be found in many over the counter skin lightening products in the US where it is legal to purchase it. In the US, it is possible to buy creams with up to 2% hydroquinone over the counter but concentrations of up to 4% are available by prescription.

There is no doubt that hydroquinone works to fade dark marks and lighten the skin but it should not be used over prolonged periods. If you choose to use hydroquinone and have not seen results after 4-6 months, you should discontinue use.

Although, some studies have shown that hydroquinone is a carcinogen for humans meaning that it could cause cancer, no extensive research has been done in this area.

Using hydroquinone over extended periods of time can Ochronosis, which is a condition where dark and thick blue-black patches appear on the skin. The skin ends up looking a lot worse than before skin lightening treatment was started.


Mercury is another extremely effective skin lightening ingredient that causes more harm than good and has been used since the early 20th century. The use of mercury in cosmetic products was banned in Europe in 1976 and in 1990 in the US.

Mercury is a poison! It is absorbed into the skin and traces can still be found in the body after death. Side effects of mercury poisoning include fatigue, memory loss, headaches and kidney damage.

Although banned, it is still possible to find products that contain mercury being sold illegally so ensure you know exactly what ingredients are in any cosmetic product you are thinking of purchasing.

Steroids (corticosteroids)

Topical corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone provide fast and temporary skin whitening but prolonged use is not safe or recommended. Corticosteroids are usually prescribed by doctors to treat skin conditions like dermatitis and eczema and are not intended to be used for prolonged periods. Lightening of the skin is a side effect of using these creams but the sale of these specifically for skin lightening is illegal and when sold on the black market, steroids are not usually listed in the ingredients. The use of corticosteroids can lead to excess hair growth, fragile and thin skin, irritation and fungal or bacterial infections.

There are so many safe and natural ingredients that are used in skin whitening products today. Some of these ingredients are arbutin, lactic acid, kojic acid and licorice extract. When looking for a skin lightening product, be sure it contains safe ingredients.

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