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SSS Montreal 2017: Consult skin of colour patients about their use of skin lightening products

During the Skin Spectrum Summit in Montreal on May 13, 2017, a Montreal-based general practitioner, who specializes in aesthetic medicine, recommended that clinicians consult with their skin of colour patients regarding their use of over-the-counter (OTC) skin lightening products, their pigmentation concerns, and prior skin lightening treatments.

Dr. Yves Hébert, owner and medical director of Médecine Esthétique Dr. Yves Hébert, said skin lightening products are projected to be a $23 billion market by 2020. This is boosted by Asian markets and represents an increasing market in Western countries. He noted that there are inadequate regulatory frameworks for these products in developing countries.

Patients also might be using home remedies for skin lightening, said Dr. Hébert. These might include:

  • Lemon juice (variations: mixed with yogurt, egg whites, honey),

  • Milk,

  • Chamomile flowers (flavonoids – Antioxydant and anti-inflammatory),

  • Lemon turmeric cream (Curcuminoids – Anti-inflammatory),

  • Gram flour with olive oil, and

  • Licorice root extract.

Dr. Hébert said OTC products can contain a combination of the following active ingredients:

  • Hydroquinone,

  • Kojic Acid,

  • Azelaic Acid,

  • Fluorinated Steroids,

  • Retinoids,

  • Mequinol,

  • Niacinamide,

  • Arbutin,

  • Pycnogenol,

  • Oral Glutathione, and

  • Oral Polypodium Leucotomos Extract.

A risk of using skin lightening agents or antiaging products from “dubious countries of origin”, noted Dr. Hébert, is the potential to be exposed to mercury. Mercury exposure can cause gastrointestinal problems, kidney damage, tremors, memory loss, congenital abnormalities, and cerebral palsy.

Other concerns with using some of these products is the potential for allergic reactions, a disruption of normal skin functions, and complications from topical steroids.

More information about the Skin Spectrum Summit can be found at Registration is still open for the Vancouver Skin Spectrum on May 27.

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