It is no longer news that a lot of Nigerians are obsessed with the colour of their skin. A lot of women (and even men too) want to look “yellow” and as a result have turned to bleaching in order to look fairer. I remember a dark friend of mine telling me that she never liked hanging out with “yellow girls” as she always felt less beautiful in their midst. Whatever happened to black is beautiful?
Bleaching or skin whitening involves the use of cosmetics to whiten or lighten the skin tone. The World Health Organisation (“WHO”) estimates that 77% of Nigerian women use bleaching products – this is the highest in the world. This statistic is alarming because bleaching or skin lightening is a very dangerous practice. The chemical substances used in bleaching are harmful as they include such strong formulations as hydroquinone, Arbutin, Kojic acid and Azelaic acid. These compounds prevent the formation of melanin and reduce its concentration in the skin. If you are unfamiliar with melanin, it is the skin pigment that protects your skin from the damaging effects of sunlight. It is the skin pigment that ensures that human beings are adapted to the tropical environment of Africa. Melanin is found in the skin of every black African for a reason so why is there such a desire to get this pigment out of the skin? One could understand a desire to develop a more even skin tone. However, many women go above and beyond this in order to get a lighter skin.
Skin bleaching has become endemic in Nigeria. There are a lot of women who feel that using bleaching creams of is the shortest road to being beautiful. Apparently, some women believe that being fairer makes them more beautiful and successful and therefore more likely to find a husband. Even our celebrities are not left out, although you would hope that they use more expensive and sophisticated products. The truth is irrespective of price tag, bleaching/skin lightening products are extremely hazardous. WHO has listed the dangers associated with skin bleaching as cancer of the bloods (such as leukemia), skin, liver and kidneys as well as serious skin conditions. These conditions will not manifest immediately but in the long term, skin bleaching could really put your life in danger.
Some bleaching creams are euphemistically branded as toning creams due to the negative perceptions of bleaching, but a study of the ingredients by a team of researchers at a Bayero University, Kano showed that the ingredients are equally as dangerous and can cause mutations in bacteria.
There is also the psychological problem that comes with attempting to change the colour of one’s skin. If you are not satisfied with the skin God has blessed you with, you are bound to start feeling inferior like my friend mentioned at the start of the article. If you start believing that you need a lighter skin to be successful in life, then you are doing yourself a huge disservice. Like former South African President Nelson Mandela once said “whoever is not proud of his colour is not fit to live”.
Ladies, please let us be content and proud with the skin colour God has blessed us with. Indeed, black is beautiful.
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