Skin Bleaching Creams Linked to Diabetes

Active ingredients like hydroquinone and potent steroids can affect the endocrine system.

Posted: 10/05/2012 03:15 PM EDT

A new study finds that skin-bleaching creams could lead to diabetes, among other illnesses. The findings, published in Canadian Family Physician, conclude that in trying to develop fairer skin, consumers could unknowingly be putting their health at serious risk.

Most popular lightening creams used to even skin tone or fade away blemishes contain hydroquinone as its active ingredient. It halts the body's production of melanin, which is responsible for your skin's darker pigmentation. Unfortunately, prolonged use of hydroquinone could turn your skin blue or gray or create bumps where applied. It has led countries to ban the chemical and the Food and Drug Administration to put a 2 percent cap on the amount contained in over-the-counter products.

Unfortunately, not all companies follow the rules and also add in other harmful ingredients like steroids into their creams and that puts unsuspecting consumers at risk for illnesses much more serious than changes in skin color.

Dr. Neelam Vashi, a dermatologist at Boston University Medical Center, told TheGrio that "with high-potency topical steroids used for a long time you can get suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system. And with that suppression you can get these endocrine problems like Cushing’s disease and diabetes."

Strong steroids such as betamethasone and clobetasol propionate are both attractive options for skin lightening, but when clobetasol has been linked to diabetes and Cushing's disease (an illness that causes weight gain, swelling of the face and a thinning of the skin), consumers should ask themselves if it's worth the risk. Especially when African-Americans are already 1.8 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.

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(Photo: Getty Images/STOCK)

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