Opinion: Weight loss, complexion-lightening products harmful for young people

In India, young people face strong pressure to conform to a slim, fair beauty ideal, and stereotypes about appearance can affect marriage and professional prospects, according to Ananya Awasthi, assistant director of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health India Research Center. In a January 10, 2020 opinion piece in Outlook India, she wrote that these societal norms can lead young people to turn to unregulated, potentially harmful weight-loss and complexion-lightening products.

Awasthi cited research findings from the School that children and young adults who consume dietary supplements for weight loss, muscle building, and energy may increase their risk for severe medical events, and that use of diet pills and laxatives increases the risk of developing an eating disorder. She added that some research has shown evidence of potentially harmful chemicals in lightening creams.

She called for increased scientific regulation of supplements and cosmetics and for better communication of potential risks associated with these products.

Read the Outlook India article: Why public health advocates need to tackle the ever growing pressure on young people to be slim, fair and perfect