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Bleaching Creams, Soaps, Remain Popular In Cameroon Despite Risks

Wearing a large hat protecting her face from the sun’s rays in Cameroon, 63-year-old Jeanne now bitterly regrets using skin whitening products after being diagnosed with skin cancer, IgbereTV reports 

She is one of many women in Cameroon who use the controversial products that have been banned after social media outrage.

“I am embarrassed when people look at me,” the trader in the capital of Yaounde said, wishing to only use her first name.

After a lesion grew on her face over five months, she went to a doctor who diagnosed her with one of the most common skin cancers.

Doctors told her the cancer is linked to her use of skin lightening products for 40 years.

Jeanne, like millions worldwide, used the products for more “desirable” lighter skin, an ideal pushed by the beauty industry.

According to the Cameroon Dermatology Society (Socaderm), nearly 30 percent of residents in the economic capital Douala and a quarter of schoolgirls used the products in 2019.

For some like 20-year-old student Annette, the effects can be harsh. She said she suffers from red patches on her face, peeling skin and also burns.

“Under a strong sun, my face became hot and I had to stop,” she said.

The products with names like “White now” and “Super white”, are instantly recognisable on shop shelves by the fair-skinned women on the packaging.

Dangerous chemicals

The furore began in the summer after social media users criticised opposition MP Nourane Fotsing over her company that sells the products, angry that an elected official would profit from them.

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