In Jamaica, a Disturbing Number Bleach Skin

Health officials warn against the practice, but trend persists
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2011 1:06 PM CDT
In Jamaica, a Disturbing Number Bleach Skin
In this photo taken Feb. 15, 2011, roadside vendor Sophia McLennan displays her selection of skin bleaching agents near a pharmacy in downtown Kingston, Jamaica.   (AP Photo/Caterina Werner)

In Jamaica, the popular trend of skin bleaching has reached disturbing and dangerous heights, doctors say. Despite public health campaigns warning against the practice, many residents purchase concoctions—sometimes from roadside vendors—that claim to lighten the skin. One dermatologist even had a patient who started bleaching her baby. "She got very annoyed with me when I told her to stop immediately, and she left my office," he tells the AP. "I often wonder what became of that baby." One professor says young Jamaicans see bleaching "as a modern thing, like Botox, to fashion their own body in a unique way." Others believe a lighter cafe-au-lait-color complexion could lead to a better life.

In order to achieve a lightened skin color, favored by the elite and often seen as more attractive by men, Jamaicans are using creams that include dangerous ingredients like hydroquinone, which can cause disfiguring splotches, or toxins like mercury. Some poor people will even use toothpaste or curry powder, which gives their skin a yellow tint. Health officials are running a campaign to warn of the dangers, and even reggae singers are weighing in—but some, like Vybz Kartel, are all for the practice. Sample lyric: "Di girl dem love off mi bleach-out face." (More bleach stories.)

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