Skin Lightening & Bleaching: Fad or Addiction

Skin bleaching is a procedure used to lighten areas of the skin. The procedure is often popular with people looking to get rid of melasma (dark spots), a condition caused by a variety of factors, including exposure to the sun, hormonal changes, birth control pills, and pregnancy.

It is a popular procedure all over the world. Some statistics indicate that skin lightening products make up close to 50 percent of the cosmetic industry. Many of these products contain hydroquinone, a substance approved for over-the-counter sales, but products may only contain 2 percent hydroquinone.

Many skin lightening products on the market today contain other harmful chemicals, such as mercury and lead. Despite this, many people continue to buy products that may have a serious impact on their psychological and physical health. If you have been planning on bleaching your skin, you may need to assess your motives: you could be developing an addiction.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Skin lightening and whitening can become a condition characterized by compulsive behavior. It may be related to body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). People with the disorder may buy large quantities of beauty products or visit cosmetic surgeons frequently.

Like many disorders, BDD includes repetitive negative thought patterns. People with the condition are likely to think about the flaws in their body several times a day. While an ordinary person may worry about acne or skin spots, people with BDD often worry about minor or perceived flaws much of the time.

Perhaps people requesting skin lightening procedures and products want to increase their chances of accessing opportunities. Physical appearance, including skin tone, seems to play a role in how people are judged. According to one study, people perceived light-skinned black and Hispanic people to be more intelligent than people with darker skin.

These attitudes are prevalent in many parts of the world, such as Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. While skin lightening is apparently more prevalent among women, and even more so in Asis cultures such as Korean skin lightening, the prevalence of BDD is equal across the genders.

Symptoms of BDD and Skin Lightening Addiction

Despite the perceptions associated with lighter skin and opportunities, it is advisable to research cosmetic procedures. You need to know the symptoms of BDD and skin lightening addiction.

Cosmetic procedures may not be a good idea for people who are driven by negative compulsive thoughts about their physical appearance. If you find that you are so concerned about how you look that it affects your behavior, you may have BDD. BDD may make you more prone to skin bleaching addiction.

Over time, the condition can worsen. You may constantly avoid mirrors or skip school or work. Your self-consciousness may also affect your social life.

You may end up spending hundreds of dollars on cosmetic products. Frequent skin lightening could mean that you apply unhealthy amounts of chemicals such as hydroquinone to your skin. Many skin lightening products contain substances such as mercury and lead. These metals can cause a lot of problems, including reproductive health complications, cognitive impairment, liver damage, and kidney complications.

Frequent skin lightening may contribute to serious psychological issues. People who develop BDD are prone to anxiety and depression. Some statistics suggest that people with BDD have high rates of suicidal ideation. But changing your physical appearance will not eliminate the underlying psychological problem. Complications that may arise from using unsafe products may lead to even more psychological distress.

Treatment for BDD

BDD is related to other disorders such as depression, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), eating disorders, and others. Professionals treat BDD similar to other disorders related to compulsive behavior and self-image. If you have a skin bleaching addiction, it may be advisable to have a BDD diagnosis confirmed.

Once confirmed, BDD can be treated using the following evidence-based strategies:

  • CBT: Cognitive behavioral therapy addresses the repetitive thoughts and obsessive behaviors of BDD. It helps patients break destructive patterns and replace them with positive thoughts and actions. Unlike traditional Freudian psychoanalysis, it focuses on changing present actions and thoughts instead of looking at possible childhood factors.
  • Antidepressant medications: Researchers believe that body dysmorphic disorder often occurs alongside other conditions such as anxiety and depression or a possible dual diagnsis. SRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have been found to be more effective than non-SRI medications. SRI medications may help reduce depression, obsessive thoughts, and repetitive behaviors.

It is important for people in the cosmetic industry to assess their clients to determine if they are prone to skin lightening addiction. The condition often goes misdiagnosed in clinical settings because people are embarrassed to volunteer information.

Practitioners and entrepreneurs in the cosmetic industry may have marketing opportunities and face-to-face interactions to meet people prone to BDD. They may want to take advantage of their opportunities to educate people on the dangers of the condition. If you suspect you have an addiction, seek treatment as soon as possible.

Author Bio: Nicole Allen is a freelance writer and educator based in the Michigan and believes that her writing is an extension of her career as a tutor since they both encourage learning and discussing new things. When she isn’t writing, you might find Nicole running, hiking, or swimming. She’s participated in several 10K races and hopes to compete in a marathon one day.
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