The widespread use of skin lightening creams in Senegal: a persistent public health problem in West Africa

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BackgroundThe use of skin lightening creams is common in the female population of some African countries. The long-term use of certain products for several months to years may cause cutaneous adverse effects.MethodsFrom 1992 to 1993, we conducted an epidemiologic and clinical study in Dakar, Senegal. Women were questioned about the use of skin lightening creams and examined for potential adverse skin reactions. Six hundred and eighty-five Senegalese women participated in the study.ResultsTwenty-six per cent of women were using skin lightening creams at the time and 36% had used them at some time. The most common products used were hydroquinone and corticosteroids, but 25% of women had used products of unknown composition. Seventy-five per cent of women using such creams showed cutaneous adverse effects. Facial acne was the most common adverse effect.ConclusionsA major part of the female adult population of Senegal used skin lightening creams. The long-term use of these creams is responsible for a high rate of cutaneous adverse effects. This practice has also been reported in other countries from sub-Saharan Africa and suggests a widespread use in the African population.

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