My toxic love affair with skin lightening creams

The Guardian - Apr 08, 05:00 GMT

Stephanie Yeboah started using bleaching creams when she was 14, believing her worth was linked to her skin tone

Stephanie Yeboah started using bleaching creams when she was 14, believing her worth was linked to her skin tone. It didn’t take long for side-effects to appear

On a hot summer day in 2003, I’m making my way home to the Battersea neighborhood in south London after chilling with friends at the local outdoor pool. The sun has painted my usually coffee-coloured skin a deeper shade of mahogany.

I take a detour to my local black hair and beauty shop. “I’ll have my usual,” I tell the shopkeeper. He hands me two bottles of what I called my “creamy crack” – skin bleaching creams with hydroquinone, a chemical ingredient that has been banned in Europe, Australia and Japan since 2001 due to high amounts of mercury. (How the shopkeeper attained them, I never cared to ask. I do know he seemed to have a never-ending supply.)

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