*In Kingston (Jamaica), Mikeisha Simpson covers her body in greasy white cream and bundles up in a track suit to avoid the fierce sun of her native Jamaica, but she’s not worried about skin cancer.
The 23-year-old resident of a Kingston ghetto hopes to transform her dark complexion to a cafe-au-lait-color common among Jamaica’s elite and favored by many men in her neighborhood. She believes a fairer skin could be her ticket to a better life. So she spends her meager savings on cheap black-market concoctions that promise to lighten her pigment.
Simpson and her friends ultimately shrug off public health campaigns and reggae hits blasting the reckless practice.
Felicia James, a 20-year-old resident of the Matthews Lane slum, said skin bleaching just makes her feel special, like she’s walking around in a spotlight. She was taught to bleach by her older sister and her friends.
“It’s just the fashionable thing to do. After I bleach, I’m cris,” she said, using a Jamaican term for cool. “Plus, a lot of the boys are doing it now, too.”
People around the world often try to alter their skin color, using tanning salons or dyes to darken it or other chemicals to lighten it. In the gritty slums of Jamaica, doctors say the skin lightening phenomenon has reached dangerous proportions.
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