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 color 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. To combat this perceived problem, genital bleaching began to gain mainstream appeal. Men, primarily homosexual, also make use of this procedure.
The procedure was briefly shown in 2004 near the end of an episode Cosmetic Surgery Live. One salon that performed the procedure received an increase in queries in 2005 attributed to 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 time 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 methods 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, like hydroquinone used to lighten skin and usually found in products marketed to darker skinned people to even out their skin tone, and other popular methods like cryosurgery and laser lightening treatments, are also 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 performed with creams containing 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, its 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. Azelaic acid with natural products like Aloe Vera and vitamin C tablets is another method. Kojic acid was developed as a safer alternative to hydroquinone, however it is less effective at lightening and also carcinogenic.
Laser-based and cryogenic anal or genital lightening does come with 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.
Another potentially overlooked aspect of using chemicals that contain hydroquinone and kojic acid is sanitation. Anal bleaching is a service offered in many non-medically supervised locations like spas or women's beauty service providers. The use of such powerful chemicals opens the possibility for bacterial infection or herpes transition.
To avoid the risks of non-medically administered anal bleaching doctors advise prospective patients to seek medical advice first before applying over the counter bleach-based substances.
- "The Scary New Butt Beauty Trend". Cosmopolitan. 3 August 2011.
- "Anal Bleaching: From Porn Trend to Mainstream (Un)Necessary Evil". LA Weekly. 8 February 2012.
- "The New Full-Frontal: Has Pubic Hair in America Gone Extinct?". The Atlantic. 13 December 2011.
- "Is Anal Bleaching for You?". Marie Claire. 21 July 2011.
- "Britesmile for Bungholes". The Village Voice. 5 July 2005.
- "Why actions speak louder". The Guardian. 19 September 2004.
- "Bruno on Anus: I'm Bleached and I'm Proud!". TMZ. 15 December 2009.
- "Ass you like it". Time Out New York. 11 October 2007.
- "Once You Go White". Next Magazine. 18 January 2013.
- "Skincare: Skin lightening products". Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association.
- "Hydroquinone Studies Under The National Toxicology Program (NTP)". Food and Drug Administration.
- "Hydroquinone". Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
- "Chemical Information Review Document for Arbutin [CAS No. 497-76-7] and Extracts from Arctostaphylos uva-ursi" (PDF). National Toxicology Program. January 2006.
- "Backdoor bleaching". News24. 24 February 2009.
- "University of Iowa - Vaginal Health". 22 November 2016. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- "Safe Anal Bleaching Guide". Anal Bleaching. 23 November 2016. Retrieved 23 November 2016.