A tragic skin-whitening death in Cambodia

The Banteay Meanchey provincial health department is likely to temporarily close beauty salons that sell skin-whitening creams following the death of a 23-year-old woman who reacted violently to a cream she had purchased in the province, a health official said Tuesday.

Chhuon Sovann, 23, began vomiting after she began using a skin-whitening cream on March 2, and she died on Sunday after falling unconscious, her family members said.

Chhuon Manet, the victim’s 20-year-old sister, said she had been taken to a private clinic in Banteay Meanchey and a hospital in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province, where doctors said she had suffered a bad reaction to the cream, and that they could do nothing for her.

“The doctors told us that my sister was reacting to the cream that she used, which had absorbed into her skin,” Chhuon Manet said. Chhum Sovanrith, director of the provincial health department, said he suspected it had been imported from Vietnam.

The Bangkok Post reported on Tuesday that the cream was one product in the Vietnam-based Bao Dam brand of skin-whitening products, adding that their products had previously been found to contain mercury and had been banned.

The article noted, though, that the Thai food and drug administration was still conducting tests and had not officially determined that Bao Dam products killed Chhuon Sovann. “As far as I know, it is a Vietnamese product,” Chhum Sovanrith said, adding that he planned to temporarily close any salons selling skin-whitening products in his province. “I will close any beauty salons selling this type of product, which has a bad impact on the skin and health,” he said.

Further details:

Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanavisit said doctors advised Ms Chuan had died of a blood infection.

Ms Chuan bought the Bao Dam cream in a Poipet market and had rubbed it all over her body to whiten her skin in preparation for her wedding, her father Pol Capt Samuan Chuan said.

She developed severe allergic symptoms including peeling skin and chest discomfort and finally lost consciousness.

Pol Capt Chuan said he believed the cream caused his daughter’s death as it contained mercury.


Extracts from a Phnom Penh Post article by Mom Kunthear (original). More details from a Bangkok Post article (original).  Published 9/10 March 2010.


4 thoughts on “A tragic skin-whitening death in Cambodia”

  1. I dont get why ppl still buy old school poisonous skin whitening items. If it does not have labels or list the ingrediants or if you are buying it from a 3rd world country i wouldnt trust it. New whitening products now are super duper safe. There is so many organic lines that use fruits/plants to whitening skin (sure it may be a slower process) but still.. I’ve been using whitening products from Japan and South Korea, it’s gentle and effective. Mulberry lemon (though lemon can be a bit harsh maybe avoid if u have sensitive skin), licorice Papaya kojic and the list goes on!!!!
    I’m very sadden for this girl who was only trying to make her skin for radiant for her wedding day. I hope more items will be checked and banned.

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