Remember Michael Jackson’s Black Or White song? “It doesn’t matter if you are black or white” — that’s what the pop legend once said. And we all agreed, didn’t we? Then why has the market for skin lightening products been growing tremendously over the past decade? Even in the case of pop legend, there still exists a controversy. The legend said he suffered from a skin disease known as vitiligo that causes skin depigmentation. But critics believe the late King of Pop went through the cosmetic procedure because he was unhappy with his naturally dark skin.
What exactly is skin lightening?
Skin lightening or skin whitening is the procedure of using the substance, both natural and chemicals, or medical treatments to lighten the color of your skin. The concerned treatments reduce the content of melanin in the skin leading to a lighter skin color.
History of skin lightening
The trend for skin lightening goes back to the period of colonization. During this period, the people with white skin got more preferences for all the high profile work. For example, the South African black community was dominated by the white government. Hence, it was natural that people with lighter skin had better opportunities because of the domination of the white community. Another strong reason said to have contributed to the prevalence of skin whitening products is the caste system. The caste system came into existence in many societies across the world.
These cases were much prevalence in Asian countries like China, India, Thailand, and Indonesia, etc. Here both the colonization and caste system have etched their marks deep into the communities. Also, commercials have done a pretty good job. The commercial advertisements in Indian television often show the famous Bollywood actor trying to clear the dark brown man’s face using a skin whitening cream. People following celebrities is a popular fad all across the globe. Now just imagine the impact of such ads on consumers. There’s no doubt that the skin whitening market will continue to grow to a much bigger scale.
Global market for skin lightening
As per the market research analysis, the global skin lightening products market is growing at an estimated CAGR of 9.29%. It is further expected to reach $23 billion by 2020. This market growth is driven by the desire, among both women and men, to adorn even-tone, light-colored skin. New opportunities for this market are coming up in the men’s segment with new grooming products.
“There has been a significant rise in the demand for male skin brightening and lightening products”
The trend continues to gain high momentum across the Asia-Pacific as users strive towards getting fair complexion. A study conducted in 2015 determined that the use of skin-whitening creams among university students in 26 middle and low-income countries was significantly very high. This figure was higher when it came to many Asian countries. 17.4% in India, 25.4% in Philippines, and 69.5% in Thailand.
Comparatively, skin lightening is a smaller market in the West. If we take into consideration the rising demand across the United States and the United Kingdom, the demand is attributed to the surge in immigration and expansion of ethnic communities. Asia is a market where the trend for skin whiteners have gained a constant momentum. It more prominent in the countries such as India, Japan, and China, where fair skin relates to the youth and beauty.
In Asian and African countries, you will seldom find products that do not boast about skin lightening. In India alone, 61% of the skin care and beauty products claim to have skin whitening features, according to a study in 2010. Recently, a celebrity backed whitening product was launched in Nigeria, and it was sold out in 24 hrs. Brands such as L’Oreal, Shiseido, Lancome, Olay, Unilever (which sells Pond’s White Beauty, Vaseline and Dove whitening ranges) and Avon are few that are endorsing skin whitening products.
The dark side of skin whitening
Skin whitening continues to be an unpleasant issue across the Caribbean, African, and Asian countries. Recently, there was an uproar in Ghana, a West African country, that is waging war against the multi-billion dollar skin lightening industry with a strict legislation. There is a running proposal on banning the importation of all products which contain the skin-lightening chemical, hydroquinone.
What’s so bad about hydroquinone?
Hydroquinone is a highly toxic chemical. The chemical is widely used in the processing of white and black film and manufacturing of rubber. It is also a common ingredient for hair dyes. Hydroquinone is widely used in whitening products such as lotions and creams because of its active bleaching properties. This chemical reduces the regular production of enzyme tyrosinase and in turn, slow down the formation of melanin.
While the overall health risks due to hydroquinone are not yet known, it is cytotoxic in nature. It can cause genetic alterations because it has (cancer causing) carcinogenic properties. The chemical is responsible for increasing the danger of various complications like liver disease, thyroid disorders, and excessive adrenal dysfunction. Japan, Europe, and Australia have imposed bans on Hydroquinone being sold as a whitening product.
FDA (Food and Drug Administration) proposed a ban back in the year 2006. Currently, the skin whitening products containing 2 % hydroquinone is legal to be sold in the market as over the shelf products. Also, the products containing up to 4% of hydroquinone are easily available on prescription from the local physician.
If products containing Hydroquinone are used for the longer periods, they can lead to a condition called “ochronosis.” Those affected by ochronosis start developing black-blue darkening in some parts of the body.
How about mercury?
Another chemical that is a common occurrence in skin whitening products is mercury. Back in 2013 Midsummer, FDA had issued a strict warning for all consumers to refrain from using skin products such as creams and lotions that contain mercury to avoid mercury poisoning in the body. The proposed ban on mercury to be used in skin lightening products dates back to 1990.
Mercury is an extremely toxic chemical which is absorbed very quickly by the body. The chemical gives very hard time to get it removed from one’s body. Initial harmful effects that can arise post usage of beauty products containing mercury include skin discoloration, scarring, and skin rashes. Long term use can lead to serious health hazards such as damage to the nervous system and the kidney, as per the World Health Organization (WHO). Mercury also has the potential to cause psychosis or depression. The chemical even interferes with brain/mental development in the case of kids.
Before using any of the beauty products, it is highly recommended to check the labeling for words such as “Mercury,” “Mercurous chloride,” “Mercurio,” “Mercuric,” or “Calomel.” Also look out for Hydroquinone and steroids.
Solution: Natural Alternatives & Healthy Marketing
Glad you checked! As the global market for skin whitening focuses on various beauty intensifying claims around the health, “The brands should take an ethical ground when working on the fair skincare solutions.”
Given the various side effects related to the use of chemicals, such as mercury and hydroquinone, the manufacturers are concentrating on the development of more natural alternatives. The skin care institutes and researchers have discovered many all-natural whitening ingredients. These ingredients acting similarly as the chemical counterparts to suppress melanin production, without the negative side effects.
“As consumers are showing signs of turning away from potentially harmful products, natural and ethical brands are slowly gaining pace in this ever-growing market.”
Identifying the right from wrong can be very difficult when it comes to beauty products for skin lightening. Natural products for skin lightening include, in most cases, ingredients such as Emblica, arbutin, licorice, kojic acid, mulberry and Vitamin C.
These ingredients have been clinically confirmed to inhibit the melanin production, and they do not cause any side effects. The next time you go shopping (online or on the high street) for a skin whitener, look out for the friendly ingredients and cruelty-free products.
The companies are slowly adopting the smart marketing tactics to share the key messages on encouraging diversity within the beauty industry. The whitening products need to be positioned sensitively and should use covert, respectful marketing to raise the awareness responsibility. International brands are focusing on the power of female empowerment. The product descriptions have been renewed to radiant, brilliant, vibrant and even skin tone.
To gain an edge on the competitive side, the brands will also need to combine the focus on transparent messages and healthy complexions. So that they demonstrate the emphasis on quality ingredients, credibility and build trust with the consumer market.
It is no secret that global market of Skin Whitening will touch approximately 23Billlion USD by 2020. The market is driven by growing desire to have light colored and even toned complexion. There have been massive investments in research, technology, and innovations in the skin whitening industry. Consumers are gradually moving towards more health conscious product choice. They are opting for all natural components which are supposedly as efficient as harmful chemical.
Also, the innovations in developing products with various plant based extracts are expected to drive the skin whitening market growth in coming years. The growth of focused and smart marketing opportunities along with natural alternatives are projected to hit the market across the world. Consumers need to learn about all new developments and chose the high-quality products to cater to their skin care needs for radiating and even skin tone.