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A skin lightener can fade — or even clear — dark spots and patches on your skin, but some come with serious health risks.
If your skin lightener contains mercury, it could be damaging your kidneys without you knowing it. Mercury can also injure your nerves, leading to permanent numbness or tingling in your hands, feet, or around your mouth.
If your children snuggle up against you, the mercury could harm their developing brains.
Your husband can also develop serious health problems if your skin-lightening product contains mercury. He could develop mercury poisoning, which can cause irritability, shyness, and tremors. Mercury poisoning can also lead to problems with eyesight, hearing, or both.
If you use a skin care product that contains mercury, your children and husband can also develop serious health problems.
Sometimes. Your skin may feel rough and dry where your applied the skin lightener. Your skin may itch. You may feel tired, weak, or have muscle pains. Some people have a metallic taste in their mouths.
If you’re using a mercury-laden skin lightener, the product may cause skin rashes, scars, discolored skin, anxiety, or depression.
Sometimes it’s possible — but not always. Here are 3 things you can do.
If you see the word “mercury” or “mercuric” on the list of ingredients that also means the product contains mercury. For example, you might see mercuric amidochloride, mercury oxide, or mercury salts.
Because many countries have laws that prohibit mercury in skin care products, it’s possible that you won’t find any of these clues.
Studies show that you can easily buy a mercury-laden skin lightener in the United States. In one study, scientists in the United States set out to buy every skin-lightening product they could find.
Before using a product to fade age spots, get a full-body skin exam. If a skin cancer fades, it can take longer to find — and may spread.
The scientists bought products online from countries around the world. They also scoured the shelves of U.S. stores, looking for skin lighteners. They found skin lighteners at beauty supply shops, department stores, ethnic groceries, and other retailers located within four of the largest US. metro areas — New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Phoenix.
Anything that promised to lighten the skin — from creams to soaps — they bought. After their shopping spree, they had 549 different products. They tested each for mercury.
Nearly 12% of the skin lighteners contained mercury. About half of these products came from U.S. stores.
While mercury can be harmful to your health, it also can effectively remove dark spots and lighten your skin tone. Mercury is also an inexpensive skin-lightening ingredient.
To protect your health and get the results you seek, the AAD recommends seeing a board-certified dermatologist. The advantages of seeing a dermatologist include:
Why put your health at risk? Make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist and see what’s possible.
Images 1, 2: Getty Images
Image 3: Property of the American Academy of Dermatology
Hamann CR, Boonchai W, et al. “Spectrometric analysis of mercury content in 549 skin-lightening products: Is mercury toxicity a hidden global health hazard?” J Am Acad Dermatol 2014;70:281-7.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Mercury poisoning linked to skin products.” Updated July 26, 2016. Last accessed November 10, 2017.
World Health Organization. “Mercury in skin lightening products.” 2011.