Bleach: What It’s Good For and What It’s Not

Bleach is perhaps the most commonly found item in any household, regardless of family size or economical background. However, the uses for bleach have grown dramatically over the years and these days it is more commonly associated with the beauty industry than household laundry and cleaning practices.

We all know bleach is great at keeping white clothes bright and vibrant. But we also know it can do damage once it comes into contact with colored clothing items. Bleach has always led this double-edged sword life. It’s no different when it comes to its uses in beauty. When used properly, this product can produce great results. It is important for people to know and understand where bleach’s strengths lie and where they don’t.

Good: Teeth Whitening
Who wouldn’t feel good sporting a brighter, whiter smile? Teeth whitening has become almost as common in dental hygiene as flossing these days. Originally only reserved for appointments at the dental office, there are now teeth whitening products that contain bleach and other effective ingredients in the form of kits, mouthwash and toothpaste.

Although it is popularly known as teeth whitening now, the process is a form of bleaching the teeth. Of course the ingredients used are perfectly safe for professional as well as home use—never try to whiten teeth using household bleach.

When exploring this option of improving your smile, it doesn’t hurt to try any of the many products available on store shelves. But it is important to know that it usually takes a few weeks for noticeable results to appear. Want a faster path to results? Then make an appointment with your dentist for whitening services. If you happen to have sensitive teeth in general, make sure to let the dentist know. The use of certain at-home kits also list possible side effects as increased tooth sensitivity. Should discomfort occur, stop using the at-home kit right away.

So-So: Skin Lightening

Skin bleaching is a popular practice, especially in countries like India and parts of Asia—so much so that it has spawned entire lines of beauty products made for the purpose of lightening dark skin. Common uses include but are not limited to improving the uniformity of uneven skin, lightening freckles/age spots and lightening areas of the body that tend to be much darker like the underarms.

When used properly by following the application instructions, desirable results can be obtained. But there is a downside to skin bleaching, namely the use of the ingredient hydroquinone, which is a very active ingredient in many skin lightening products. Studies have shown that hydroquinone can be harmful to the human body if used for long periods of time. Prolonged use could lead to kidney, nerve and brain damage and even cause cancer. Its negative side effects are so well known that hydroquinone is banned from use in Europe and Japan.

The key to using hydroquinone wisely is to keep application to a minimum. Avoid overusing the product — that means not using it for weeks or months past the recommended time frame.

Bad: Hair Coloring
The fact that bleach is terrible for the hair hasn’t stopped people from getting this service done at the salon. As cool as the end result is, the process is nothing but harmful, regardless of hair type and color. Hair bleaching literally strips color from the tresses. While this produces the desirable color (white/pale yellow), it also leaves the hair vulnerable, brittle and weak.