A new medical report has highlighted potential dangers relating to certain active ingredients found in skin lightening products not authorized for sale in Europe.
The research, carried out by a team of doctors at the Imperial College hospital in London, referred to an individual case where a 28-year old woman who was a regular user of an illegal skin lightening product had experienced a series of medical conditions that doctors believe were related to the treatment.
According to the medical notes, published in the lancet, the unnamed patient was suffering from rapid weight gain, stretch marks and an inability to conceive.
The patient initially stated that she had not taken any illicit or prescribed medical treatment.
However, after a comprehensive series of medical examinations revealed no suitable explanations for her condition, doctors again asked the patient about drugs or medications.
Illegal skin lightening products often contains steroids
She finally revealed that she had been using 60 grams, or two tubes a week, of clobetasol - a potent skin lightening treatment that contains high levels of the steroid corticosteroid.
These type of creams are commonly prescribed for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, for which it is not recommended that the treatment is used for longer than 2 weeks at a time.
However, it transpired that the patient had been regularly using two tubes of the cream over a seven year period.
In the medical report the team of doctors, led by Tricia Tan, Maralyn Druce, Anthony Goldstone and Karim Meeran, pointed to the fact that individuals who use skin lightening products are often reluctant to admit to the practice.
Skin lightening can be a taboo subject
This reluctance is put down to the fact that discussion about skin lightening treatments can be a taboo subject for ethnic minorities, and this particular case was probably compounded by the fact that the treatment was purchased illegally.
Skin whitening products are becoming increasingly popular across the globe as individuals strive to achieve a brighter, healthier looking skin.
The products have proven particularly popular in the Asia Pacific region, where certain interpretations of beauty dictate that women, and increasingly men, have an unblemished and light skin colour.
Equally, older individuals throughout the world suffering from liver spots and other age-related skin darkening conditions are turning to skin lightening formulations in an effort to maintain what is perceived to be clearer and more youthful looking skin.
One of the biggest makers of authorised skin lightening products is Germany-based Beiersdorf, which markets a number of products under the Nivea brand, both to men and women on a global basis.