Despite skin-bleaching products being outlawed in countries such as Ghana, Togo, South Africa, Mali and Cote d’Ivoire, the demand for skin lightening has rather increased. It is estimated that 70% of Nigerian women and 52% and 67% of Senegalese women use skin-lightening agents.
The conundrum lies in the products that are used to formulate skin bleaching creams and the likes. Many include mercury, cortisone and hydroquinone; chemicals linked to skin cancer, high blood pressure, thinning of the skin, other forms of cancer, and kidney and liver failure.
The World Health Organization has specifically banned these chemicals due to their danger to individual’s health.
Despite the dangers, the practice is still going strong. As Jackson Marcelle said, “Black people are seen as dangerous. “That’s why I don’t like being black.” “People treat me better now because I look like I’m white.”
Skin bleaching has evolved to “toning,” “dark spot correction” and “lightening.”
Pregnant women in Ghana have even taken to ingesting pills that will lighten the skin of their unborn children. The effects are damage to limbs and internal organs and additional birth defects.
Then, there are advocates dedicated to assuring women with dark skin that they are beautiful. Amira Adawe, a Somali-American who hosts a radio show has got women calling in to discuss the societal and cultural pressures that lead them to alter their skin tone.
Adawe says of skin lightening, “A lot of it ties to colonization, Certain skin colors were more accepted in the society. “But through the years, it became so embedded in the culture to where it’s become normal.” “If you’re light-skinned, you’re more accepted.”
Long-held notions about what “suitable” skin color is are still proving to have a stronghold on the mentality of blacks and other ethnic groups.
It runs deeper than just beauty and appearance.