Colourism: a global adolescent health concern

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Colourism, a form of prejudice and discrimination based solely upon skin colour, stands to jeopardize the physical health, wellbeing and life chances of adolescents of colour, globally.

Recent findings

Research shows that adolescents can experience colourism at school and college, in the criminal justice system, at work and in the media they consume. It is therefore unsurprising that adolescents of colour often express a desire for lighter skin tones and/or are dissatisfied with their skin tone. Although research is scarce, some studies include older adolescents in their samples of skin-lightening product users. This is significant as the evidence is clear that the unmonitored use of skin-lightening products can be harmful to physical and psychological health, with evidence linking skin-lightening use to skin damage, kidney failure and depression.

Summary

Although it is evident that colourism is central to the lives of adolescents of colour, more research is needed concerning the use of skin-lightening products among adolescents. Media literacy and critical race theory offer avenues in helping attenuate the harmful impact of colourism for adolescents of colour.

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