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Health Knowledge, Cosmetic Interests, Attitude, and the Need for Health Education Regarding the Use of Topical Bleaching Agents Among Women in West Saudi Arabia: A Cross-Sectional Study

Journal of Cosmetic Science | Vol. 69 No. 2
Authored by Mariam Eid Alanzi, Riyadh A. Alghamdi, Osama Mohammed Alsharif, Khaled S. Alghamdi and Salah Mohammed El Sayed


We aimed at investigating the cosmetic interests, public confidence in cosmetic industry, health knowledge, practice, and need for health education regarding using topical bleaching agents (TPAs) among a relatively big sample size in Al-Madinah (west Saudi Arabia, a conservative eastern society that acquires its social customs from Islam). Islamic values increased women respect and esteem in this society. This is reflected on cosmetic practices and attitude, e.g. women use face cover outdoors. This issue is vital for both women health and beauty, and is rarely discussed. TPAs use is affected by culture, social customs, and health awareness regarding TPAs chemical constituents, e.g. hydroquinone, mercury, steroids that may harm skin and general health. Ethical committee approval was done for our study that included 531 women (attending the outpatient clinics in March–April 2016) of targeted 571 (response rate was 89.8%). 43.3% (230 women) are current TPAs users. Three hundred and eight-nine women (73.3%) regularly used TPAs to heal pigmented areas like freckles (75.8%) and just to lighten skin color (58.7%). Side effects of discontinuation were restoration of normal skin color (44.3%) or even darker skin (27%), skin dryness (20%) and rash (9.6%). Mercury is recognized as harmful to human health by 30.2%, whereas cortisone was chosen by others (53.2%). Unexpectedly, minority of investigated women (10%) considered using TPAs safe and recognized harms of some ingredients as mercury whereas the majority (70.2%) does not encourage others for TPAs use although they themselves kept using TPAs for different reasons. Cosmetic interest is high among women using TPAs, highest among the middle age (26–40 years), and lowest among women more than 40 years (50% versus 17.9%) ( < 0.001). Using skin TPAs in west Saudi Arabia is comparable with international standards, higher among educated women, house wives and employed women. This denotes care of married employed women to use TPAs to express beauty to husbands. This is not reduced by work duties and is controlled by conservative Islamic modesty. Health education is mandatory regarding TPAs components and use during pregnancy and lactation. Cosmetic science and industry needs more research to improve TPAs use through providing better safe alternatives for many TPAs components, e.g. mercury and hydroquinone.

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