Skin Bleaching: A Dangerous Obsession

Skin bleaching (aka skin whitening, skin lightening or skin toning) is the practice of using chemical substances to lighten skin tone by lessening the concentration of melanin in the skin. Melanin is the dark pigment in skin cells that gives all humans their respective skin tone. People of African descent have more concentration of melanin (i e pigmentation) in their skin compared to other race. This is why we are dark/black skinned.

Scientists believe that the high pigmentation associated with blacks is a protective measure by nature to prevent our skin from the harmful effects of the sun rays due to the region of the earth we inhabit. In other words, skin bleaching is far more dangerous for those of us living in Africa. This is why the report by the World Health Organization ( WHO) in June last year which stated that 77% of women in Nigeria use skin lightening products (this being the world’s highest percentage) should give cause for concern. The active ingredients in skin bleaching products are hydroquinone, glucocorticoid (cortisone) and mercury chloride. These chemicals go into the innermost layer of the skin where skin cells are produced and block melanin production. Hydroquinone has been shown to cause blood cancer (leukemia). The European Union banned it in 2001 and it is sold in the US only as a prescription drug for treatment of specific skin diseases. In Nigeria, we do not have effective regulation of cosmetic products. A test carried  out on some common skin lightening creams available in the country was reported to show that they are possibly carcinogenic and cause mutations (unnatural changes) in bacteria. This is clearly dangerous.

The skin is an excretory organ, it also serve as a protective shield for your body against germs and harmful radiation (ultraviolet radiation) from the sun. So when you bleach your skin you are like a policeman in the Rapid Response Squad going into an armed robbery situation without his bulletproof and a gun. Suicide mission you would say. Hello! That is exactly what you are doing, committing suicide too my bleaching friend. No wonder some people believe that bleaching is a manifestation of self-hate. Yes you must be suffering from low self worth, inferiority complex and self-hate to continue in this obsession called bleaching after reading its effects. Some say they are toning not bleaching, call it whatever you like when the result eventually lands we will know who is fooling who.

A Nigerian-Cameroonian musician called Dencia launched a skin lightening product called ‘whitenicious’ and it was reported that the product sold out in a short while. That is to tell us how uncomfortable majority of our people are about the colour of their skin. It is disheartening that our men are also into this practice. Those leading the craze among the men-folk include a former Governor   and a popular traditional leader who should know better. Some international celebrities have also been reported to have dabbled in this practice. They include Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Iman. Apart from skin bleaching products, some people also use laser technology in their quest to become ‘oyinbo’.

The recent method I heard is the use of household bleach. Haba! Must we go this far? Do you want to go blind? Oyinbos are spending thousands of dollars to get tanned in order to become darker. They endure long hours in the sun and even run away from their country to your own to get darker. You are here killing yourself slowly to become like them.

Fellow Nigerians, (to imitate the khaki guys) the long term effects of bleaching far outweigh the pleasure of the thoughts in your head that your bleached skin makes you more beautiful or handsome. Yes you are easily noticed because of your bleached skin but what of the long term effects of bleaching namely cancer of the skin, cancer of the blood, cancer of the liver, cancer of the kidney, inflammation and permanent scarring of the skin, bleach panda effect to mention a few. In addition, bleached skin smells. Oh girl please try asking someone close to you to sincerely tell you if do. Bleached skin really smell except people just don’t want to be sincere with you. Are you ready to live with all these?

I know there are some medical skin conditions  such as vitiligo, birth marks, moles etc that warrant the use of certain skin lightening products but their use is usually recommended to be topical (only on the affected area) and time bound. So you really don’t have any excuse for bleaching your entire body for ten years lady!

Instead of bleaching try exfoliating with natural substances like honey, milk, lemon, orange, tomato to mention a few. Exfoliation involves removal of dry, dead skin cells. Our daily activities, the harsh weather conditions and the aging process takes its toll on our outer layer of skin and the skin cells die. The skin regenerates itself by producing new cells to replace the dead ones. The dry, dead cells appears like specks of dust on the skin and makes it look unhealthy and dusty hence the need for its removal.  For details about how to use these natural exfoliators you can get in touch with me via e-mail.

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