18 January 2010

Bleaching Away Self Esteem

Yana Paskova for The New York Times
Allison Ross used creams for years to lighten her skin. She developed several severe side effects.

Tim Sharp/Associated Press (left); Eric Jamison/Associated Press
Sammy Sosa, the former baseball slugger, in 2007, left, and 2009.
He said a cream to “soften” his skin had bleached it, too.

For years, Allison Ross rubbed in skin-lightening creams with names like Hyprogel and Fair & White. She said she wanted to even out and brighten the tone of her face, neck and hands. Mrs. Ross, 45, who lives in Brooklyn, also said that she used the lightening creams “to be more accepted in society.”

But many others seek to lighten their entire face or large swatches of their body, a practice common in developing countries as disparate as Senegal, India and the Philippines, where it is promoted as a way to elevate one’s social standing. A small percentage of men in such countries also use the creams.

“In fact, it’s a growing practice and one that has been stimulated by the companies that produce these products,” she said. “Their advertisements connect happiness and success and romance with being lighter skinned.”

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