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September 2014

The Ethnic Health and Beauty Section in the US Army and Air Force Post Exchange System

Author Affiliations
  • 1School of Medicine and Health Sciences, The George Washington University, Washington, DC
  • 2Division of Dermatology, Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, DC
JAMA Dermatol. 2014;150(9):998. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.217

The US Department of Defense establishes retail stores (known individually as a post or base exchange [PX or BX]) on military bases to let military personnel buy consumer goods at low cost. Even in combat zones, rudimentary exchanges are often set up within days—or even hours—of the military’s arrival. The shelves of frontline exchanges are well stocked with comfort and convenience items, such as candy, tobacco products, magazines, and personal hygiene items.

Both of us have participated in military deployments to remote, austere, and risky locations overseas. While working together in our university’s dermatology clinic, we compared observations about the surprising array of items in the “Skin, Hair, and Health Care” sections of the field-based exchanges. Even in the most austere environments, the exchange system has a formally designated “Ethnic Health & Beauty Section,” which, for practical purposes, is used mainly by black women, who comprise less than 5% of military personnel.

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