Eight out of 10 dermatologists in the UK believe that over-the-counter skin-lightening creams are unsafe and that consumers should only use such creams if prescribed by a qualified skin-care expert.
The British Skin Foundation survey also found that 16% of dermatologists believe that skin-lightening creams are "completely unsafe", with just 4% being convinced of the opposite that they are "completely safe".
The survey is part of the year-long skin health awareness campaign, Respect Your Skin, and aims to address the issues surrounding the safe use of skin-lightening creams.
Indy Rihal, from the British Skin Foundation, said: "There are some products that promise to lighten the skin, but unfortunately contain illegal compounds that can be detrimental to the skin. These creams can cause thinning of the skin, the development of visible blood vessels, an uneven loss of colour, intense irritation and even a blue/black discoloration of the skin.
"The most common compounds that cause these conditions are a high dose of steroids and hydroquinone, which is in fact banned from being used in cosmetics. Creams prescribed by dermatologists to treat skin conditions that cause pigmentation of the skin contain the legal concentration of these compounds and are, therefore, safe in this instance alone."