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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bride-to-be dies in bid for beauty

Bride-to-be dies in bid for beauty

Lor Lyhour, a 19-year-old cosmetics vendor, sits in a cell at a Kampong Speu provincial military station after being arrested on Friday. Lor Lyhour was arrested for selling a banned brand of Vietnamese skin-whitening cream, which allegedly led to the death of a woman.

A 21-YEAR-OLD bride-to-be died in Kampong Speu province after she used skin-whitening cream to make herself “beautiful” for her wedding day. She became the second bride to die after using the Vietnamese product, which has been banned in both Cambodia and Thailand.

Mam Seak and her 19-year-old younger sister Mam Srey Oun began applying the cream – branded Kim Lot Lanh Thom Cao Cap – in Oral district’s Trapaing Chhor commune on Thursday afternoon after buying it from a local wedding shop, district military police chief Som Puthdara said yesterday.

The pair began putting the cream on at 1:00pm. Six hours later they began having difficulty breathing and hearing.

“The older sister died at 8:30am on Friday and the younger sister was sent to the provincial referral hospital,” Som Puthdara said.

Mam Seak was planning to get married the day after the end of the Pchum Ben festival and decided to use the whitening cream without knowing that it could be dangerous, he said.

Lor Lyhour, the vendor who allegedly sold them the cream, was arrested on Friday.  The 19-year-old, who has yet to be charged, is being detained at the provincial military police station.

Provincial health department director Or Vanthan said that after Mam Seak died he ordered his officials to temporarily close the wedding shop where the product was allegedly sold and banned its sale. All other beauty and wedding shops would be shut down it they were selling the same cream. 

“We have collected the products in order to test how they caused the victim to die,” he said. “I think that she died from poisoning or a reaction from overusing the cream. Her health was also weak.”

In March last year, a 23-year-old woman in Banteay Meanchey province died after using the same brand of skin-whitening cream before her wedding. Her family had sent her for treatment at a hospital in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province, where doctors said she had suffered an allergic reaction to the cream and that they could do nothing for her.

The health ministry banned the import and sale of the Vietnamese brand one month later. Prime Minister Hun Sen also ordered the ministry to strictly monitor the use of beauty products containing toxic chemicals, noting that they could cause health problems and lead to diseases such as cancer.

The Bangkok Post reported in March last year that the cream was one of many Bao Dam skin-whitening products that had been found to contain hazardous levels of mercury. The Vietnamese-made range of brands is also banned in Thailand.

Kong Bun Ly, a doctor at Kampong Speu provincial hospital, said yesterday that the hospital had treated about 20 women who had suffered bad reactions to skin whitening creams but Friday’s incident was the first death.

The bride who died was in a weakened state of health because she had just recovered from malaria, he said.

The younger sister was recovering and would soon be allowed to leave the hospital.  

Calmette Hospital dermatologist Thav Sothavy told the Post last month that half her patients arrived at the hospital for treatment of ailments resulting from skin-whitening creams.

“All whitening creams are dangerous, especially the mixed creams. Those creams can contain corticosteroids, antibiotics, molecules such as hydroquinone, which is carcinogenic, or even mercury salts that are highly toxic,” Thav Sothavy said.

Side effects from applying the creams can range from allergies, scars and eczema to severe and non-reversible pigmentation troubles, Thav Sothavy said, adding that they can even promote the onset of autoimmune skin disease.



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