Have you ever seen fairness cream advertisements and wondered at their marketing schemes? According to them, if your skin is a few shades lighter, you will rock that job interview. You might be a national level sports champion, but of course, you care more about how fair or dark you look. One particular advertisement goes so far as to imply that an ambitious woman is confident only if her skin is of a fair shade.
These advertisements are subtly ingraining in you that your confidence and prospects are directly proportional to the lightness of your skin colour. And for those of you who fall victims to this belief, some fairness creams are feeding another devil—steroids.
Fairness creams are guilty of using steroids like Beclomethasone, Betamethasone, Desonide etc. to affect the pigmentation of your skin. Aggressive use of these steroids leads to skin ailments or worse diseases.
Dr Kiran Nabar spoke to Mid-Day, about the consequences of using these steroids on your delicate skin. He said, “The usage of any cream with such a formula can cause several skin diseases, like thinning, pimples, and even a burning sensation. It also makes the skin vulnerable to sun exposure. In fact, girls can also develop facial hair that will be irreversible, even if they were to stop using the cream.”
Taking such side effects into consideration, Maharashtra’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had written to the Centre about the use of this unauthorised medication.
The widespread use of these creams and the ease of availability added to their concerns. You can get these harmful steroids for Rs 10 a tube, and the pharmacy or the brand does not notify you about their side effects.
With the consultation of Drugs Technical Advisory Board, the Central Government has categorised 14 steroids used in fairness creams in the Schedule H category of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. Schedule H prohibits the sale of drugs over the counter without a proper prescription. It includes over 500 drugs so far, and now includes the steroids found in fairness creams.
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This means that, very soon, buying fairness creams in Maharashtra will soon require a medical prescription!
Pallavi Darade, the state commissioner of the FDA, told Pune Mirror, “A new list of steroids has been included in the Scheduled H drug list by the central authority. All chemists now have to maintain a register and record of these fairness creams sold to the customer. The records will be checked by the FDA similar to other Schedule H drugs.
From now on there will be a strict cap on the sales of these fairness creams by chemists without prescription. A steroid is a drug and should not be used without being prescribed by doctors. The move will help the public, and they should also act with caution.”
Explaining the process of distinguishing between creams that contain these drugs and those who do not, Amrut Nikhade, FDA Joint Commissioner (HQ) told DNA, “The schedule H steroid cream will have distinctive labelling. A red mark on the label will differentiate it. It will take time for manufacturers to label the creams accordingly.”
The decision is certainly a welcome move. Fairness creams play with our psychology, almost as much as they play tricks on our skin. Fairness creams strictly as prescribed medicines will help bring down the number of people using them extensively and risking their health to this “unfair” devil.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)