Carlene from Kingston, Jamaica, has been bleaching her skin for three years. She uses skin lightening creams popular with many Afro-Caribbeans, despite repeated health warnings. After three years, she stopped because it gave her stretch marks on her hands and parts of her body.

Carlene, 35, from Kingston, Jamaica, has been “bleaching” her skin for three years. She uses skin lightening creams which are popular with many Afro-Caribbean, African and Asian people, despite repeated health warnings. Some of the products contain toxic chemicals, such as hydroquinone, which may cause skin irritation, bleaching, or even infection, when applied in excessive quantities.

“After three years bleaching, I have stopped. The reason is that it gave me stretch marks on my hands and on some parts of my body – like my sides. I didn’t really want to destroy my skin. What is really harsh in the bleaching cream is the hydroquinone.”

“Sometimes I lie down at night and wish I could wake up in the morning and just look like I did before this process started. My advice to people who are thinking of starting, is that you can use something mild. Even though I’ve stopped bleaching, I still use something mild, to maintain my skin tone. Because if I stop now, I’m going to look like I’m poison. That’s the effect it has on you.”

Extracts from a BBC article, published 12 June 2009 (original / download pdf)