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POLL: Do You Encounter Patients Who Are Unaware of the Risks of Skin Lightening Products?


Click here to answer this week's poll.

Do you encounter patients who are unaware of the risks of skin lightening products?

Yes, often
No, never

Roopal V. Kundu, MD, a professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, a Northwestern Medicine board-certified dermatologist, and the founder and director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Ethnic Skin and Hair, led a recent study that evaluated patient awareness of the risks associated with skin lightening products. According to Kundu, “The most surprising finding was the lack of awareness of ingredients in products being purchased over the counter and their potential detrimental effects. These products are bought from chain grocery stores, community-based stores, or even online and do not undergo the same type of regulation as large-chain store or prescription products.”1

To conduct the study, researchers sent an anonymous 19-question survey to individuals with skin of color in the US asking about their demographics, colorism attitudes, skin tone satisfaction, and skin lightening habits. Of 455 individuals who completed the survey, 238 were Black, 83 were Asian, 84 were multiracial, 31 were Hispanic, 14 were American Indian or Alaskan Native, and 5 self-identified as other.

In total, 21.3% of participants reported the use of skin lightening products, with 73.5% of these participants using the products for acne, melasma, or hyperpigmentation. The rest of the respondents used these products for general skin lightening.

“As dermatologists, we hope to understand the cultural and societal influences that impact skin health and treatment of skin disease. Cultural mindfulness for clinicians as they get to know their patients battling pigmentary issues allows for the safe, effective, comprehensive, and compassionate treatment of dermatological disease across all communities,” concluded Kundu.


1. Paul M. Skin lightening products can be dangerous, but users don't know risks. Northwestern University. July 18, 2023. Accessed July 24, 2023. https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2023/07/skin-lightening-products-can-be-dangerous-but-users-dont-know-risks/

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