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Mumbai: The surge in availability of varied skincare products over the counter and online has resulted in an increase in skin consciousness amongst women. This trend has also coincided with an alarming growth in uninformed purchases of harmful skincare products, without dermatologist consultation. Case in point here is the unregulated and OTC sales of Schedule H drugs and Hydroquinone based creams; the easy availability and misuse of which have grown to be a concern for the dermatologist fraternity. The market is full of safer creams infused with ingredients as Vitamin B3, vitamin C, Liquorice, etc., however, since their visible effects take longer to surface, people, tend to opt for alternatives despite their adverse effects.

DR. AK Sarkar, Dermatologist, Kolkata, who is against the usage of Schedule H drugs and Hydroquinone based creams without adequate medical supervision, said, “Hydroquinone can have serious immediate and long-term side effects like irritation, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, ochronosis, etc. In fact, even after discontinuing the use of Hydroquinone based creams, there are high chances of rebound hyperpigmentation and irregular patches that can lead to skin discolouration, making it unsafe to buy these creams OTC and by recommendations from friends or family.”

The many side-effects of Hydroquinone have led countries such as European Union, China, Southeast Asian Countries, Middle East, Turkey, Australia, etc. to ban its usage in skin care cosmetics – categorising them as dangerous. On the other hand, steroids are another group of ingredients, the unregulated use of which can have serious side effects on the skin. Steroid based creams are even harder to identify because unlike hydroquinone, these are compounds displayed with different chemical names on packs. Studies have proved that prolonged and uninformed usage of such creams can lead to side-effects, like acne, dermatitis, skin dryness, severe itching, burning, thinning of skin, patchy and uneven pigmentation, melanocyte inhibition (vitiligo like condition) etc. which makes it necessary to be used under strict medical supervision, even if it is for a short period of time.