Practice, Perception and Problems Associated with Skin Bleaching among Female Secondary School Teenagers in Yaoundé-Cameroon: A Preliminary Study
Author(s): Zoung Kanyi Bissek Anne Cécile, Penda Ida Calixte, Nkoro Grace, Mendo’o René Hubert, Bitouga Aristide, Fabou Martial Aimé, Mengnjo Michel Karngnong, Njamnshi Alfred Kongnyu
Introduction: Youths, particularly teenagers in Africa are the target of the growing cosmetics market especially skin-lightening cosmetic
products (SLCPs). With an increasing demand, the African adolescent in urban areas is susceptible to engage in skin bleaching (SB).
However, little is known about the perceptions of youths on this practice. The objective of our study was to determine the practice of SB and
evaluate the perception of users of SLCPs on SB and its complications.
Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted on female secondary school students in Yaoundé. Informed consent and assent were
obtained. A self-administered pre-tested questionnaire was used for data collection. Data analyses used Chi-squared test, p< 0.05.
Results: One hundred and fifty-eight participants out of the 600 (26.33%) practised SB. For the 158 participants enrolled for analysis,
mean age was 16.3 years (range: 12 -19; SD=1.48) and 33% (52/158) practised voluntary SB. Of these, 52 participants, 42.3% used skin
lightening soap plus skin-lightening lotion twice daily. The most frequently used bleaching products were mercury-containing bathing soap:
33 participants (20.9%) and hydroquinone body lotion: 68 participants (43%). Concerning the perceptions, 50% of participants perceived the
practice of SB as rendering the skin more beautiful, 34.2% as fashionable and 5.8% as a means of sexual attraction while 55.3% considered
the practice as dangerous. With regards to problems associated with SB, participant declarations were: skin infections (65.8%), skin cancer
(64.6%), skin irritation (62%), acne (27.2%), stretch marks (20.9%), kidney disease (5.1%) and diabetes (1.9%).
Conclusion: A quarter of female secondary school teenagers in Yaoundé practice SB as a means of beautifying their skin, being fashionable
or a means of seduction. Their erroneous perceptions of problems associated with this practice (systemic complications), call for an urgent
need for sensitization of the student population on the health dangers of SB in our context.