Jamaica Says Black Is Beautiful

BBC News, Jan. 22, 2007

Jamaica has gained international attention this past week for plans that have been announced by the island’s Health Ministry to crack down on skin lightening products.

Recently the use of often dangerous chemicals for skin lightening has become so popular among Jamaica’s youth that health officials have been driven to launch a campaign highlighting the dangers.

The ‘don’t kill the skin’ campaign will begin in February to coincide with Black History Month. The Health Ministry hopes to increase awareness through talks and advertising.

Pharmaceutical and Regulatory Affairs

Valerie Germaine is the acting director of Pharmaceutical and Regulatory Affairs which is a part of the Standards and Regulations Division within the Jamaican Ministry of Health.

“Many more persons are turning up at our health facilities.

“We also know that many of the adverse effects that we have seen really come because of the use of illegal prescription steroids,” Mrs Germaine said.

According to doctors, apart from the more traditional skin lightening creams some Jamaicans use toothpaste, curry powder, milk powder, household bleach and cornmeal to lighten their skin.

Stretch marks, atrophy and bruising

Dr Clive Anderson, an executive member of the Jamaica Dermatologists Association, explained some of the problems encountered when people use certain skin lightening products.

“Stretch marks may occur; atrophy of the skin; the blood vessels become more visible; the skin is more easily bruised; it is more likely to become infected with fungal and bacterial infections,” the doctor warned.

“There can be long term, permanent effects,” he added.

“Accept yourself”

But, the General consensus among the Jamaicans that the BBC Caribbean Service spoke with was that skin bleaching was not something that they would do.

“You must learn to love yourself and accept yourself,” said one.

“I like my skin. I’m black and I don’t have a problem with it,” declared another.

The Jamaican Ministry of Health says it hopes that this latest campaign will help to counteract the current trend of skin bleaching among both Jamaica’s young men and women.

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