Skin Bleaching Rampant in Jamaica

And the efforts to stop it seem to be missing the real problem. (Hint: It's not about the chemicals.)

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The Associated Press reports that even after a "Don't Kill the Skin" campaign by Jamaican health officials to educate people about the dangers of skin-bleaching cream, their use hasn't decreased at all and has, in fact, reached "dangerous proportions," even in the country's slums.

Most Jamaicans who bleach their skin use over-the-counter creams, which are often knockoffs imported from West Africa. Long-term use of hydroquinone, one of the main ingredients, has long been linked to a disfiguring skin conditions. It's been removed from over-the-counter products in Japan, the EU and Australia. But in Jamaica, lightening creams are not effectively regulated.

The AP reports that Eva Lewis-Fuller, the ministry's director of health promotion and protection, is redoubling education programs to combat bleaching in this predominantly black island of 2.8 million people, where "images of fair-skinned people predominate in commercials for high-end products and in the social pages of newspapers."

Fuller's explanation for the problem: "(Bleachers) want to be accepted within their circle of society. They want to be attractive to the opposite sex."

We have to agree with Carolyn Cooper, a professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of West Indies, who wrote in the Jamaican Gleaner newspaper, "If we really want to control the spread of the skin-bleaching virus, we first have to admit that there's an epidemic of color prejudice in our society." No amount of education about the physical dangers of the practice will be effective if the deeply entrenched problems that inspire it -- colorism and resulting self-hate, to be exact -- go unchecked. A public awareness campaign aimed at those issues would be one we could get behind.

Read more at the Washington Post.

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