Parenting in this modern age comes with its unique set of challenges and in a world of constantly evolving beauty standards, it is not surprising to see how such standards have paved the way for the unexpected.
The unhealthy trend of using toning creams on children is a result of a pervasive belief that light-skinned individuals are more attractive.
These beauty ideas are often propagated by celebrity lifestyles, media, pop culture, and advertisements, and have over time, formed the basis upon which we measure our self-worth, as we are constantly enticed by the idea of a “perfect” image.
As parents or guardians, we must understand that children’s skin is tender and there are no benefits to using toning creams on young children.
What are Toning Creams?
Toning creams, also called skin brightening or lightening products, are cosmetic products that are used to alter the complexion of the skin by reducing pigmentation, dark spots, and uneven skin tone. They work by inhibiting melanin production through the presence of active ingredients like hydroquinone, corticosteroid, and mercury. While they are more commonly used by adults, the disturbing trend of their use on children has sparked a lot of controversies and raised health and ethical concerns.
Effects of Toning Cream on Children
- Health Risks: The potent ingredients often contained in toning creams can pose serious health risks, mainly when used on children’s skin. For example, hydroquinone has been linked to mild burns, skin irritation, redness, and a characteristic bluish-black discolouration of the skin called ochronosis. Corticosteroids, when used above the safety limits, can lead to acne, excessive hair growth, and skin thinning which can put children’s skin at risk of tears. Mercury, on the other hand, is a known toxic heavy metal, that can cause neurological and developmental damage when absorbed through the skin.
- Hormonal Disruptions: Some toning creams, especially those containing ingredients like hormones or hormone disruptors such as parabens, phthalates, and BPA, have been known to interfere with hormonal balance in children, potentially leading to unforeseen health complications and developmental concerns.
- Uneven Skin Tone: Excessive use of toning creams has been associated with uneven skin tone due to the risk of over-lightening certain body areas, resulting in an unnatural and unappealing appearance.
- Long-term Skin Damage: Over time, prolonged use of chemicals in toning creams can damage the skin’s protective barrier and collagen, making the skin more susceptible to premature ageing and other skin problems.
- Carcinogenic Risk: Hydroquinone, an active ingredient in toning creams, has been classified as a potential carcinogen by various health organisations and its continued use through toning creams increases the risk of skin cancer in children.
- Organ Damage: Prolonged use of hydroquinone has also been linked to kidney and liver damage in the long run.
Apart from the health implications of toning cream on children, there are also ethical and socio-cultural effects to consider:
- Socio-cultural Perception: Children might develop a wrong perception of beauty standards, associating lighter skin with success and attractiveness, as well as experience an unintentional disconnect from their heritage, as they no longer feel pride in their rich, black skin tones.
- Low Self-esteem: Ethically, using toning creams at a young age might send the wrong message that natural skin tones are not beautiful, potentially affecting a child’s self-esteem and body image.
The importance of encouraging children to embrace and celebrate their natural appearances cannot be overemphasised. Parents, educators, policymakers, and society as a whole, play significant roles in curbing this harmful trend. Some of the ways we can achieve this are by prioritising education, regulating and promoting healthy beauty standards, and self-acceptance.
Holistically, nurturing children’s self-confidence and teaching them that they are beautiful the way they are, is crucial in preventing the harmful effects of toning creams on our young ones.
Researcher: Iloh Chioma Sandra