We in the sub-continent are obsessed by fair complexion and hence, we must have some knowledge about skin. The colour of our skin depends on a pigment in the body called ‘Melanin’. The more the melanin in the skin, the darker the skin is. Melanin has its own usefulness as it blocks cancer causing rays of the sun, so you find that darker skinned people get less skin cancer than white skinned people and also less sun burn. This is nature’s way of providing us protection, as darker skin is found in areas which are very warm. Fairness creams block the secretion of the Melanin in the skin thus making it fairer. A warning issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) says that the common ingredient in these skin lightening products, mercury, can have adverse effects such as kidney damage, reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, anxiety, depression or psychosis and also peripheral neuropathy.

Your skin colour is natural, just like your eye and hair color. When people use these products they may work temporarily, but in the long term they wear off leading to frustration, depression and the obsession of switching from one product to another. Many dermatologists feel that suppressing the production of Melanin can have adverse long-term effects. Cosmetic products only polish the skin superficially. What is important is to keep skin healthy and clean, because any skin tone is beautiful, whatever the shade. Why else would Westerners vie for Asian skin tone and go for bronzers or the sun-tanned look?

SYED OMER NADEEM,

Karachi, May 10.