A centuries-old cosmetic practice has evolved into a worldwide epidemic of potentially harmful skin bleaching, according to a specialist in skin of color dermatology and pigmentation disorders.

The epidemic has its origin in cultural beliefs, stereotypes, and myths that help perpetuate the belief that lighter skin is a desirable trait, more desirable than darker skin. The belief system has fueled a worldwide market for skin lightening or bleaching products, many of them unapproved or unregulated and potentially dangerous. The global market for the products was estimated at $8.6 billion in 2020 and is expected to exceed $12 billion by 2027.

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