Over the Counter

Skin-Bleaching Creams Risky

Dermatologists are treating more and more women who have used skin-lightening creams, which, while bought over the counter, contain prescription-strength levels of steroids that can cause unpleasant side effects. Side effects include skin being fragile, quick to bruise, and plagued by stubborn acne, as well as a blue-black darkening of the skin. Immigrant women are frequent users of the creams, which are easier than ever to acquire thanks to the Internet. Often, prescription lotions that were never meant to be used on the face are sold over the counter for as little as $3.99. Bootleg versions of popular creams have much higher doses of skin-bleaching chemicals, and ingredients are often left off labels. “There’s a basic assumption that there’s some truth in labeling,” one dermatologist said. “That’s a false assumption for the skin-lightening market.”