Some call it skin lightening, others know it as bleaching. Whichever name you ascribe to it, you are right. Some months back, I was on my way from a professional course which I attended in order to refresh my memory when I bumped into an old friend who had just graduated from the university and was job hunting. She had gone to drop her CVs at some private establishments and firms. If not that she called out my name while crossing the road from the other side, I wouldn’t have actually recognized my former classmate who sat next chair to me while in secondary school some six years back. Though the walking steps were familiar and the voice, but her complexion wasn’t familiar at all to me. When she got closer and was grinning in happiness after losing each other’s contact for years, I couldn’t curtail my joy when I finally recognize her after getting close to where I was standing.
Since both of us had nothing doing at that moment, we sat down at an eatery close by and tried to catch up on old times dwelling on discussions about university and former classmates in our secondary school, boyfriends and general girls talk. All the while we were catching up on old times, I was shocked at her skin color which had transformed from a dark little and shy girl to someone as light as RnB American singer Beyonce in a space of three years. After almost two hours, we bade each other goodbye promising to keep in touch and visit to each other’s home.
While on my way, I couldn’t fathom the reason she decided to lighten her skin as I kept thinking about the changes i saw on her.
After that scenario with my lost but found friend, I have also encountered some few other friends, neighbours and other people, who have in one way or the other have lightened up their skin shades. Some beautiful I must confess but others ……lets just say a hot mess.
As a black woman with brown/chocolate skin, who had in time past had self doubted myself, my skin and all and also sometimes tempted to tone it a bit. It seems there is a craze by African women to lighten their skin for no just cause. As for me, a black woman, I have often looked at myself in the mirror and asked myself if I hate my skin enough to lighten it? Yeah i did thought about it, and the only answer I could come up with was a big NO, this is because there is absolutely no reason to change my skin pigmentation-absolutely no reason.
So what are the reasons for lightening the skin?
According to Anne Ackermann, a German photographer based in Uganda, Skin lightening is a normal and common practice in the east African nation. She further stated that the desire to get lighter or caramel skin is desired by women who had the preconceived idea that fairer or lighter skin is associated with wealth and beauty and makes one fit properly into the society (still wondering who came up with that ideal)
Another reason which i deduced from people who lighten their skins is that, lighter skins shades are associated with positive virtues, recognition and beauty and dark skin shades with negative. They just don’t have the psychological resources to withstand the deluge of images they are presented with every day. The new and old medias keep redefining standards for beauty. I can not keep up!
Also, inferiority complex among Africans is a factor. You have to love yourself first and this is the first stage to accepting who you. Complexion doesn’t define beauty, no, it doesn’t. Beauty has to do with who you are inside and it radiates to the outside. While chit chatting, I realized the shy awkward girl was gone and in its place was a lightened butterfly with so much confidence and zeal to experience life and conquer any obstacle that comes her way. My friend did not only lose her dark skin , she threw her inhibitions away too.
According to the World Health Organisation, 77% of Nigerian women use skin lightening products on a regular basis, as do 59% in Togo, 35% in South Africa, 27% in Senegal and 25% in Mali. These products are also used in Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Tanzania. These figures seem unusually high, but even if they’re overblown the problem is more than just cosmetic, (this fact just wowed me).
So what are the side effects of skin lightening?
Yes, there are side effects to bleaching of skin and a number of them include the following;
Bleaching/lightening products contain hydroquinone or mercury which can cause skin cancer. It damages the kidneys and wreak havoc on the nervous system.
A condition known as hyperpigmetation sometimes affects those who use these creams because the protective layer known as the epidermis has been removed exposing the skin to all manner of infections. The organs in the body such as the kidneys can also be affected.
Bleaching is, in fact, a process in which the hair on the skin is bleached to match with the actual skin tone. However, the side effects are:
- Dark grey spots
- Skin cancer
- Swelling of the skin
- Thinning of the skin
- Setting down of fat on face, chest, upper back and stomach
- Increase in appetite and weight gain
- Neurological and kidney damage due to high level of mercury used in the creams
- Psychiatric disorders
- Severe birth defects
- Liver damage
However there are natural organic skin lightening products which can be used to lighten the skin .It is more time consuming and takes a long long long time to work.
I want to stop here but before I do, I ‘d love to say be happy in whatever skin color you find yourself. YOU ARE UNIQUELY BEAUTIFUL AND JUST RIGHT. YOU ROCK!
Lets know your thoughts on this.
Bye my lovelies.
This article was first published on my free blog, brendascouch.wordpress.com, got a domain name and moved it here. That blog has been taken down.