Unscrupulous skin lightening practices are becoming a problem in the United States, according to dermatologist Arianne Shadi Kourosh, M.D., MPH. She says she has seen more patients using skin lightening creams that have unsafe and unregulated ingredients that patients purchase over the counter or overseas.
“Unless these patients bring these creams to their dermatologists’ practices, we don’t necessarily know that they’re using creams with ingredients that we don’t recommend putting on the face,” says Dr. Kourosh, director, Pigmentary Disorder and Multiethnic Skin Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital.
The problem became more evident in 2018 when a male patient presented with the desire to lighten his skin for cultural reasons and had been getting intravenous (IV) glutathione infusions at a U.S. skin lightening clinic. Glutathione infusions have questionable skin lightening efficacy and are considered unsafe, she says.
“IV glutathione infusions can damage the thyroid, kidney as well as cause life-threatening drug reactions, such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome,” Dr. Kourosh says.
She convinced the patient to stop the infusions. However, she found skin lightening clinics touting questionable and medically unsound treatments increasing in prevalence in the United States. In one case, FDA alleged Flawless Beauty, LLC, marketed unapproved, mis-labeled and dangerous drugs, singling out the company’s injectable skin whitening products. In 2017, a federal judge ordered the company to stop selling and recall the skin whitening products and other beauty products, according to a September 27, 2017 article on UPI.com.1 She also discovered a billboard for a skin lightening center in Boston, in a predominately African American community.
1. Wallace A. UPI. https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2017/09/27/Judge-orders-Flawless-Beauty-.... Published September 27, 2017. Accessed December 2019.
2. U.S. Population Trends. United States Census Bureau. https://www.ncsl.org/Portals/1/Documents/nalfo/USDemographics.pdf. Published October 15, 2015. Accessed December 2019.