It is very possible that nine out of ten people think that only dark skinned people feel the need to bleach their skin because why would an already fair skinned person desire to lighten what is already light? The practice of skin lightening didn’t start some years back. It’s been on for a very long time and is probably here to stay just as long as humans remain insecure with their natural skin shades.
Skin bleaching is dated back to 200 BCE. The Ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks used honey and olive for purposes of lightening their skin. White lead and vinegar was used in bleaching the skin. Like the Ancient societies, skin bleaching could also be traced back to historical Asia – Japanese and Chinese women were documented using white lead and rice powder for skin bleaching purposes. People believed that the color of one’s skin was reflective of their social status – having pale skin showed that you had the luxury of being able to relax indoors instead of working in the fields.
During the era of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in Africa, the colonizers brought with them the attributes of white supremacy which in turn left an adverse effect on the mentality of the black race. Skin colour was among the physical attributes that visibly separated the black people from their white counterparts. With this, Africans started feeling ugly and inferior due to the colour of their skin. The colonizers eventually started favouring their black counterparts according to their skin shade. The twentieth century recorded a mass production of skin lightening products in Africa and other continents. The consumers were dominated by white, black and brown women.
As time went on, white women substituted the skin lightening products with tanning products as tanned skin meant you spent plenty of time sunbathing and having leisure time which equaled a healthy lifestyle. While the white folks were on one side tanning their skin and getting a shade or two darker, the blacks on the other hand continued bleaching their skin. This can be characterized as one of the beauty standards.
Today, people bleach their skin for various cosmetic reasons, it could be to lighten dark spots, lighten melasma, pockmarks, age spots, while others use it for what it is popularly known for – altering their skin colour. Majority of the time, people bleach their skin to gain a confidence their natural skin colour couldn’t give them.
Skin Bleaching In Nigeria
From research, Nigeria has the highest record of skin bleaching and this is attributed to the beauty standards existing in the country. Nigeria leads the purchasing trends with 77% of women using skin bleaching products (cream and non-cream based), followed by 59% in Togo, 27% in Senegal and 25% in Mali. Nigerians have a strong obsession with light skinned people as they perceive them to be a lot more attractive than dark skinned people. This is what pushes the population into bleaching their skin AKA glowing up.
In every state you visit in Nigeria, you’ll find that skin bleaching products are selling out more compared to other skin products. Parents have even gone as far as bleaching their children’s skin to make them appear more attractive. You see people referring to a dark skinned person as dirty. The skin bleaching industry is growing rapidly and entrepreneurs are hopping on the business of producing skin lightening products as they know it is in high demand by the populace. These products are relatively expensive and have created bad situations in homes and relationships.
As much as it looks like some Nigerians are beginning to “glow”, these products have their side effects which aren’t retraceable.
Side Effects Of Skin Bleaching Products
In the first stage of using skin bleaching products, you might notice positive and likeable results because your skin brightens up and looks pretty attractive to the eyes of people. While many users are switching over to organic products, some are using pills and injections to lighten their skin. The use of glutathione pills and injections helps lighten the skin and even out the skin tone. However, these products come with their side effects. Bleaching your skin can cause a lot of damage to your external and internal organs. Generally, a bleached skin does not look healthy.
The visible redness and itchiness that you might notice when you constantly use a skin bleaching product is as a result of the product you are using. Exposure to chemicals present in bleaching products like chlorine, mercury, hydroquinone and steroids can have an adverse effect on your skin and health.
Nearly 12% of skin bleaching products contain mercury in them. Signs of mercury poisoning are but aren’t limited to numbness, high blood pressure – you will be surprised by this, kidney failure, fatigue and more. With these listed symptoms, you might want to check the ingredients used in producing that cream before getting it.
Dermatitis is a general term for conditions that cause inflammation of the skin. Dermatitis has been linked to the usage of skin bleaching substances. Itchiness and redness are commonly the first signs of dermatitis. Symptoms of dermatitis include but aren’t limited to skin ulcers, skin redness, skin dryness or scaliness, blisters, swelling, itchiness etc.
A lot of skin bleaching products contain corticosteroids that can cause steroid acne. Steroid acnes mostly occur on the chest, the arms, the back and other parts of the body when there’s a constant use of corticosteroids. It is why most people who bleach have acne on their bodies as a result of using bleaching products that contain corticosteroids. Some of the visible symptoms of steroid acne are whiteheads and blackheads, acne scars, large painful red lumps.
This is a skin disorder that causes blue-black pigmentation. It usually occurs as a complication of long-term use of skin bleaching creams that contain hydroquinone. People who use it on large areas of the body or on the entire body are more likely to develop EO.
According to Dr Siyanbola, a consisted use of skin bleaching products could cause kidney failure as well as diabetes. Osteoporosis, a loss of bone density, psychiatric manifestation and systematic hypertension among other ailments can be caused by an excessive amount of skin bleaching. Once a thing causes a decline in the function of the body system, the use of that thing should be brought to a halt or should not be used at all. Skin bleaching products inhibit the performance of the cell which protects the skin from the adverse effects of sunlight and this is why people experience noticeable negative changes on their skin. A skin expert, Abimbola Ibrahim has also noted that people who use skin bleaching products are likely to end up being infertile. When your skin is lacking its natural ability to protect your body tissues, it makes your body vulnerable to infections.
While skin bleaching products can be used successfully for cosmetic reasons like evening out the skin tone, clearing out dark spots and for other beauty reasons, it’s important to have it at the back of the mind that these products are made of chemicals that when used in excess, they can have dangerous effects on the skin and even internal organs and that’s when you need to be careful with what you use on your body or ingest. There’s beauty in melanin rich skin.