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Vaginal and anal bleaching are both practices that have become more popular in modern society as levels of income increased. This is traditionally only a cosmetic procedure to lighten skin around genitalia and has no practical medical applications. Women unsatisfied with the pigment difference between their natural skin color and their genitalia can elect to undergo acid applications in order to lighten the darker skin color and make it less obvious to notice. 

The vaginal and anal bleaching creams themselves have different mechanisms of action to accomplish this skin lightening.

Some target tyrosine molecules in skin receptors to inhibit the production of melanocytes or attack the melanin compound responsible for skin coloration directly.

These acid compounds typically also accelerate the growth of new epidermal layers and as more and more melanocytes are deactivated and more layers are created, the skin will naturally become lighter. [1]

Skin lightening is a common practice worldwide and many areas in Asia and the Eastern world idealize the lighter skin complexions seen in Europeans. It is quite common to be able to walk into local pharmacies and purchase skin lightening creams. In one study, it was determined that in Malaysia, the practice of skin lightening was self-reported in over 60 percent of the population.

In a cross-sectional study of 104 students, 22 of them (around 20 percent), had significant side effects to stop the application of bleaching agents. The most common adverse reactions would be from excessive skin peeling, acne, and prolonged itching. Only 4 of these patients went to a physician afterward to get their condition checked-out. [2]

One of the most common ingredients in vaginal and anal bleaching creams that are FDA-approved goes by the name of hydroquinone, which should only be sold in concentrations of 2 percent in over-the-counter products but can be up to 4 percent in patients that request prescriptions from their dermatologists in order to accomplish genital bleaching faster.

Common risks of too high a dosage of this medication include:

  • premature skin aging (excessive wrinkling around your vagina, penis or anus),
  • the increased risk of opportunistic skin infections due to delayed wound healing,
  • skin blotching as patches of skin may be discolored more significantly than other areas,
  • allergic reactions
  • and increased risk of melanomas.

Even if most women in sun-rich areas typically wear bikinis or bathing suits, micro-bikinis or nude beaches can become dangerous places for women already using bleaching creams because of the risk of sun damage to these sensitive areas.

Genitalia is traditionally darker because it is the most sensitive skin to sunlight. This is a physiological adaption that our early ancestors gifted us because before clothing was used, humans were naked and exposed to sunlight without natural protection. Darker skin colors would protect us from sunburns in sensitive areas and avoid melanomas.

With modern creams and clothing, our skin is not physically adapted to be able to handle the severe impact even brief sun-tanning may cause without some type of sun-screen lotion so patients considering this cream must understand the dangerous risks.

Opportunistic infections from bacteria due to a weakening of skin surrounding the genitalia or severe allergic reactions are also more likely to happen. For this reason, make sure you read the ingredients when you are using these products or do not use vaginal and anal bleaching creams at all. 

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