People head to the salon to get gorgeous — but with overdone, badly executed or unnecessary treatments, many end up with ugly results. “I see beautiful people who are in a mess because they get suckered into ruining what they have,” says Dr. Debra Jaliman, an American Academy of Dermatology spokesperson and the author of the Skin and Hair chapter in “Women’s Health for Life.” Here, we run down some potentially counterproductive beauty treatments out there — and tell you how to avoid unattractive outcomes.

Skin-Lightening Creams
It’s not bleaching that’s the problem — it’s overbleaching. While creams can be effective for discoloration from the sun or birth control pills, they should be applied in specific spots for a very limited amount of time. “You’re supposed to use [a prescription cream] for two weeks, six weeks, eight weeks,” says Jaliman, who never doles out unlimited refills. “It’s crazy to use it for years.” That’s because such creams usually contain hydroquinone, a potential carcinogen that inhibits melanin productions and should be used only in small concentrations: Two percent is the maximum over-the-counter concentration, and most prescription creams contain 4 or 6 percent. Hydroquinone has been banned in France because, among other side effects, it can cause ochronosis, an extremely rare disease that discolors cartilage pigment, making the skin appear blue-black. Still, creams with illegal levels of hydroquinone are available from local ethnic shops that stock them for communities that associate lighter skin with beauty or prestige — and on the Internet black market. An investigation by the Chicago Tribune found that imported skin bleaching creams also often contain the toxic chemical mercury.

Latisse Eyelash-Lengthening Solution
The TV ads for Latisse feature glowing actresses with impossibly full lashes. But for a small percentage of people, eyelash-lengthening products mean red-rimmed raccoon eyes. Latisse, a prescription solution that promises lush lashes, has some unpleasant side effects, including reversible eyelid darkening, permanent brown pigmentation in the colored part of the eye and hair growth on the skin that Latisse frequently touches. While Jaliman feels that Latisse is generally safe, she disagrees with the product’s directions. “The company says to use it before you go to bed, but when you sleep, you rub your eyes, you’re on a pillow, maybe you sweat,” she says. “I think people get dark when the product gets onto your lower lid when you’re sleeping.” Instead, she recommends applying the gel to the lash line during the day. And those who get red or swollen eyes should stop using Latisse completely.

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