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August 2013

Skin Bleaching as a Dermatologic Intervention: Complicity or Service?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Departments of Medicine and Dermatology, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • 2Department of Medical Ethics, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
JAMA Dermatol. 2013;149(8):901-902. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.4995

A 21-year-old African American college student has disliked her dark complexion for years. She believes that black women with light complexions have a better life—better grades, better boyfriends, better job opportunities. In her view, these women are treated better by society in every way. She believes her chances of being successful in life would be appreciably improved if her skin were a few shades lighter. She tries some creams available at a beauty supply store that claim to lighten complexion, and she notices a very slight lightening of her skin. She is encouraged by this change, but wants something stronger. She has heard from a friend that dermatologists can give prescriptions for stronger products, so she makes an appointment to see a dermatologist for further assistance in lightening the color of her skin.

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