Anal bleaching is the process of lightening the color of the skin around the anus. It is done for cosmetic purposes, to make the color of the anus more uniform with the surrounding area. Some treatments are applied in an office or salon by a cosmetic technician and others are sold as cream that can be applied at home.
Pornography actresses and related entertainers were apparently the first to undergo the anal bleaching process, in an effort to lighten the colour of their anuses to match the rest of their skin, although it has been suggested by Kristina Rose that this is not the case. As Brazilian waxing became popular, due to the popularity of smaller swimsuits and lingerie, the spread of pornography into the mainstream and endorsement of the procedure by celebrities, women began noticing that their anuses were darker than the rest of their skin. The increase in the number of women engaging in anal sex has also contributed to women's concern over the appearance of their anus. In order to combat this perceived problem, genital bleaching began to gain mainstream appeal. Men, primarily homosexual, also make use of this procedure.
It was first featured in a television program in 2004, in the UK's Cosmetic Surgery Live. It first came to popular attention in the US in 2005, following an episode of Dr. 90210 on E!, when porn star Tabitha Stevens was filmed having her anus bleached. It garnered several mentions in movies such as Brüno, and Bridesmaids, and in magazines.
The treatment was apparently first offered in the US in California in 2005; it was reported to be available at the same in Australia. Spas outside of Hollywood were slow to begin offering it as a beauty treatment, with just one New York spa offering the service by 2007. Creams are now sold for use at home, and genital lightening is offered as a laser-based treatment in cosmetic surgery centers. Although the popularity of anal bleaching has not approached that of Brazilian waxing, it has garnered mainstream recognition over the past several years.
There are several ways to carry out the anal lightening process. The most common method is to simply use an at-home lotion or gel to target the darkened anal and genital area and gradually fade the darkened area over time. Most of the other methods that are used for skin lightening, such as cryosurgery and laser lightening treatments, can also be used for anal bleaching.
Many of these cosmetics contained ingredients that would irritate the sensitive anal area, creating temporary discomfort and even burning, scarring or incontinence.
The process can be performed with creams containing hydroquinone, used to lighten skin and usually found in products marketed to black people to even out their skin tone. Hydroquinone is banned in some countries, such as the member states of the EU. In 2006, the FDA removed previous advice that stated hydroquinone was considered generally safe, as hydroquinone has been linked to ochronosis, where skin becomes permanently discoloured and disfigured, and because it may also be a carcinogen. However, it use is not banned in the US and it is still in use.
Other principal ingredients that are used in skin lightening cosmetics are arbutin and kojic acid. Arbutin, often also called bearberry, can be converted by the body into hydroquinone. Kojic acid was developed as a safer alternative to hydroquinone, however it is less effective at lightening.
Laser-based and cryogenic anal or genital lightening does not come without its own set of warnings. Results are not always consistent, the process may be a painful one, and those with darker skin tones may have issues with these processes [clarification needed]. Lasers also have the added disadvantage of leaving scars, so cryogenic skin lightening is the option usually used for the anal and genital area.
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