Your Pregnancy Beauty Regimen: Does Skin Bleaching Affect Pregnancy?
The skincare market is booming with skin lightening products, but should you do it when you're pregnant?
Pregnancy time is no doubt a beautiful time for every expectant mother. But pregnancy comes with its fair share of challenges, and in many cases, the skin is worse hit. Some women go dark in the face and neck or dark all over. While some battle acne and blackheads. And with the skincare market offering a sea of skin whitening products, it's easy to want to toe that route. But does skin bleaching affect pregnancy? One easy way to answer this is another question: what are your skin lightening options?
Melasma, or pregnancy mask, is a common symptom of pregnancy. With melasma, your skin darkens due to hormonal changes; and melanin deposits show up on your face and central line from the belly button to the pubic bone (linea nigra). Melasma is a pregnancy-induced skin change and should not be lightened using skin bleaching creams. After pregnancy, in most cases, some or all of the darkening will fade. The lightened areas may then appear lighter than the surrounding skin. Does skin bleaching affect pregnancy? Find out below.
Does Skin Bleaching Affect Pregnancy? Types Of Skin Bleaching
The World Health Organisation says that 77% of Nigerian women use skin lightening products.
According to a 2016 report by The New York Times, about 70 percent of women in West Africa reportedly use lightening creams. A Quartz report found that 75 percent of Nigerian women used lightening products; and between 52 percent to 67 percent of women in Senegal also use them. In South Africa, a survey revealed that 35 percent of women used skin lightening products.
Many people will embrace skin bleaching when they want to improve the appearance of birthmarks or dark patches like melasma. But generally, people who lighten their skin mostly do so to change their overall skin tone. And pregnancy gives you a few reasons to want to do this. The question is whether it is safe to. So what are your options, and what does science say about them?
Hydroquinone - HQ
Hydroquinone, made from Benzene a known carcinogen, is a common ingredient in skin lightening products. It works to stop your body from producing melanin. When used topically on mice in certain research, it increased the incidence of skin tumour. Hydroquinone is a pregnancy category C ingredient. Category C means the ingredient has been proven to cause birth defects in animals, but not conclusively in humans. The effect on animals includes stillbirth, deformities, and lower than average birth weight. Even though there's no conclusive verdict on using hydroquinone in pregnancy, it doesn't sound very safe. There are also several reports linking hydroquinone to many dangers; something you don't want for your baby.
More Options To Consider When Contemplating Whether Skin Bleaching Affects Pregnancy
Hydrogen Peroxide (HP)
Hydrogen peroxide is a weak acid that is slightly more viscous than water. It’s a ripening agent in the food industry, as well as hair bleach. It’s also used in most homemade skin bleaching regimens.
When women use hydrogen peroxide for skin bleaching, they usually stabilize it with other organic products. This is because it’s a strong oxidant and is relatively unstable. A typical homemade lightener consists of 2 spoons of flour; 2 spoons of peroxide; 1 spoon of milk and some water, mixed together to make a mask.
FDA experts classify topical hydrogen peroxide under pregnancy category C. Drugs under this category should be used with caution and only if their benefits outweigh the risks. That said, your baby suffers no effects because your blood doesn't absorb it from the skin.
Glutathione is currently trending with beauty experts. It is your body’s most powerful antioxidant and is in the liver as well as in fruits and vegetables. Apart from skin depigmentation, glutathione is a remedy for glaucoma, asthma and heart diseases. Glutathione works both as a topical cream and an oral pill to reduce your skin's melanin production. It also has injections that give the same results.
Kitasato University and the University of Tokyo carried out a study. And it showed that injecting pregnant mice with glutathione elevated maternal death. It also recorded an increase in abortion rates, as well as a decrease in body weight. Until future human testing proves otherwise, it’s best that you do not use glutathione during pregnancy. Also, let’s not forget what the FDA has to say about using injectable skin lighteners; “These products are potentially unsafe and ineffective, and might contain unknown harmful ingredients or contaminants. The FDA has not approved any injectable drugs for skin whitening or lightening”
Other Skin Bleaching Chemicals Include The Following:
- Azelaic Acid (AzA)
- Mercury (Hg)
- Steroid Creams
Even though nothing is conclusive, none of these chemicals are very safe. They have too many risks to be safe during pregnancy. If you must use them, speak extensively with your doctor.
Does Skin Lightening Affect Pregnancy? See These Natural Skin Lightening Ingredients
There are many natural skin lightening ingredients. Some common ones are Mulberry extracts, Alpha Arbutin, Kojic Acid, Vitamin C, Beta Carotene, Liquorice root, Papaya, and Vitamin B3 among others. These ingredients are generally safer whether you are pregnant or not. This is because they are able to gradually block melanin production; hence lightening your skin without producing toxic effects. However, there is not enough evidence to conclude that none of these will affect you or your baby during pregnancy.
If you decide to go ahead with skin lightening while you are pregnant, these tips can help to guide you:
- Read the ingredient list and shun products without an ingredient list.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter.
- Skin lighteners should not be used on broken or swollen skin.
- Always remove any makeup before you apply skin lighteners.
- Always carry out a patch test before using a new product.
- Check for medical approval or government's quality control stickers on the product.
- Consult your doctor before trying any skin lightener when you are pregnant
Also read: 11 Skin Changes That Occur During Pregnancy