Skin can become 'addicted' to bleaching, doctor warns

Dermatologist says some bleaching creams imported illegally


MIAMI – Most of us have heard of skin tanning but what about skin bleaching?  Bleaching creams can be used to correct the color pigments from scars or skin diseases like vitiligo. But according to a South Florida dermatologist, some South Floridians are using these creams to look a few shades lighter.

Health experts say skin bleaching is not common in most parts of the country, but in South Florida there's clearly a demand for the products.

Local 10's Constance Jones went undercover to find dozens of bleaching creams.  

"Many of them are not safe," said dermatologist Andrea Trowers.

According to Trowers, many of these creams are imported illegally.

"The problem when you have products imported illegally, you don't know what's in those products," she said.

Trowers, who has worked in Miami for over a decade, has seen what happens when people use these creams. She said most of them creams include very strong topical steroids. 

"The steroids can thin out your skin," she said. "They can cause you to break out bad pimples. It can also cause more blood vessels to grow in your skin and eventually your skin can become addicted to it like a crack addict to crack."

Surprisingly these illegal bleaching creams can be found almost anywhere. During our investigation, Local 10 found over a dozen tubes of illegal cream at a beauty supply store.

Trowers says most of these products have been smuggled into the country from the Caribbean.

In a recent documentary called "The Skin Bleaching Epidemic," filmmakers highlighted the dangers of these creams that were being used in poorer neighborhoods in Jamaica.

In the United States, there's been little publicity about the use of these creams.

Trowers says if you are trying to treat a skin condition, go to a medical professional, not your neighborhood beauty supply shop.

Shs says the creams should be approved by the FDA and not contain more than 2 percent hydroquinone.  They should also be steroid free.