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Skin bleaching by school students – big health worry

Skin bleaching by school students – big health worry


With skin bleaching having been recently identified as a problem with several students of a local secondary school, Dr Jerrol Thompson is calling for health authorities and community groups to get involved, as he believes the issue is widespread across St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Speaking with SEARCHLIGHT yesterday, Dr Thompson, a specialist in internal medicine and director of special projects in the office of the Prime Minister, said that he had earlier that day had the opportunity to address the general assembly of the Barrouallie Secondary School (BSS) about the issue, which the majority of students don’t realize causes more harm than good.{{more}}

He also stressed that although he has observed that skin bleaching occurs mostly in the 20 to 30-year-old bracket, the fastest growing age group is the 14 – 15 year-olds.

“So, Barrouallie is probably just the tip of the iceberg,” he pointed out, emphasizing that the BSS is more than likely not the only group this applies to.

“The principal and staff should be commended for identifying this problem, and for alerting other schools.”

Thompson explained that there are a variety of different skin bleaching products that contain different main ingredients, and are available in cream, oil and pill form.

“Some have very potent steroids; others have something called hydroquinone; others have mercury; and there are several other types of products…

“Mercury skin creams are banned – especially in the United States.”

He noted that even though these types of skin creams may be banned in certain countries, they are still available for sale online.

“Mercury can cause neurological damage, and even psychosis. Steroids can cause thinning of the skin, which can leave them prone to bruising and infections; and long-term use can even lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and so forth – if taken orally and not topically.”

He also cautioned against “refractory pigmentation”, which occurs with long-term usage, where hyperpigmentation occurs – meaning the skin actually becomes darker than it originally was.

Thompson said that the students were surprised by the effects of skin bleaching products, because they thought that ‘bleaching’ is “good and will boost their social image”.

Thompson said that he also highlighted the fact that prolonged usage of skin bleaching products can lead to the incidence of skin cancers, because it breaks down the melanin in the skin – which protects it from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

“Pointing out those things, I think it had a dramatic effect, but we still have to counter the social image of artistes, such as Vybz Kartel.”

Following his address at the school’s general assembly, Thompson said that he went into more detail about the dangers of skin bleaching with a select focus group of approximately 30 students, who had either admitted to using bleaching products or were suspected of doing so.

“I had a discussion with them about why they’re doing it.”

He said that the general consensus was that ‘bleaching’ makes them more attractive and appealing to the opposite sex.

Thompson added: “A lot of work is still going to have to be done to instill a sense of pride within themselves.”

SEARCHLIGHT understands that the skin bleaching issue at the BSS seems to be mainly affecting young males – with some female students now following the trend.

The issue has even resulted in some students refusing to participate in outdoor activities, and one student having to miss attending school, because he had developed a skin infection. (JSV)