Skin bleaching has long been a common practice across Africa, Asia and in other places where lighten skin might meant a better chance of a getting a job or marrying well. Chemicals in creams and soaps block and break down the natural process that gives skin color. Dermatologists say the practice is becoming more dangerous as the chemicals become more potent and their use spreads. Many brands of skin lightening creams like these are available in market in markets, pharmacies and beauty shops across the world.
In Dakar, Senegal, a woman, who did not want to give her name, is suffering from skin damage on her leg, foot and face. She has come to the office of dermatologist Fatimala Ly for help. Her nails are blackened from the chemicals she has been using to make her skin lighter. She says she wanted to look attractive. “To be beautiful. Yes, that is it.” Now with infections and complications, she says she is beginning to find her original dark skin beautiful again.
Dr. Ly says use of skin lightening agents is spreading through all segments of society. It affects all of the population, educated women, and uneducated women; from low levels to high levels it is affecting everyone. He also says that the chemicals are now more concentrated and more patients are coming to her with infections, severe acne and permanent discoloration. Leading dermatologists say this trend also is noticeable in other parts of the world.
Dr. Ly says bleaching is also common among pregnant women, and this says, is dangerous. Studies have found this causes low birth weight.
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