COUNSELLOR: Teens and skin bleaching

Dr Karelle Hylton, PhD Counselling Psychologist

Dear Counsellor:
I AM 14 years old and I live with my mother and grandmother. I have always thought that I was black and ugly. My family members very often tell me I am black and ugly like my father’s side of family. I have always felt unloved and unwanted. I have been using a bleaching cream since I was in grade seven ... I am now in grade 10.

Recently, I started noticing that my skin is extra pink and that my skin is peeling. I have bumps with what seems like pus, and it is all over my face. The skin on my face is so thin that I can see the veins. My face is like a patchwork and it feels tight. I am so embarrassed by the looks I am receiving, and also the teasing, that I do not want to go outside my home.

My mother is not interested; neither is my grandmother, as they bleach as well. Why is this happening to me? Can it be fixed? What can I do?

Dear D.E.,
You are wonderfully and beautifully made ... there is no one else in the world like you. You are the only one like you in the entire universe. It is unfortunate that your family could not see you for the beautiful, unique person that you are. You are your mother’s and father’s child and in that you ought to be proud and feel blessed. You were created for a purpose, and that purpose is to live the best life that you were given.

Skin bleaching is a serious issue in Jamaica, and most times it stems from low self-esteem. You have stated that some members of your family in the home have, for a long time, eroded your perception of yourself and that caused you to choose to bleach your skin. Now the effects of skin bleaching are showing. At this stage of your development, it is very important that you are given plenty of guidance and positive support in order that you grow into a successful individual. This is usually a time of emotional fluctuations, and consistent, positive enrichment is necessary for your strong emotional development. You may want to practise positive thinking and self-affirmation – “I am beautiful”, “I am special”, “I love me just as I am”, “I am black, beautiful and proud”. Finding your inner self and accepting that you are special ought to give you a different view of yourself.

It is also very important that your mother and grandmother be made aware of how you feel. If at all possible, ask your guidance counsellor or a family friend to talk with them about this. Sometimes the persons closest to us hurt us so much more than strangers, and they may not realise the effect that their actions have on us. Talking with them will, hopefully, help them see the effect that this has had on you and cause them to change. Creating a better emotional environment will allow you to be at your best.

I would like to suggest that you stop using the product(s) immediately. Use only a very mild, non-fragranced soap to wash your face for now. You ought to seek professional help through a dermatologist, your family doctor or a local clinic. I really hope that no further damage is done to your skin and that the situation can be remedied as soon as possible. Always remember that you are special and that there is no other in the world like you!
Best wishes.

Dr Karelle Hylton, PhD Counselling Psychologist karelle_hylton@yahoo.com

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