By Ifeanyi J. Igbokwe
A couple of weeks ago, a report credited to the WHO tried to confirm how that 77% of Nigerian Women use bleaching cosmetics or materials; well let me start by saying that the statistics are a victim of hyperbole.
That said, let’s go to the heart of the matter. Many young ladies and women are tempted to lighten up their color a little bit; while on the surface, it looks so fashionable and trendy but only if they know the health implication of bleaching, even the obsessed of them would not even consider altering the tone of their color one bit. Let me start by explaining the bleaching process. When a person is “black”, it is because the melanin in the body is produced and it gives their skin its color. So when you apply the cream to your skin or in the form of an injection or tablet, it simply cuts off the production of melanin, so the “blackness” to the skin is not supplied anymore and it begins to pale. But then around the knees, toes, ankles, fingers the individual soon notices rings of different shades of black and pale.
Naturally, thinking you have not applied enough, you are tempted to apply more cream to the toes and fingers so that the degree of pales it exhibits will be uniform with what is obtained in the face region, but that’s where the danger is. Most bleaching creams are made up of either Hydroquinone or mercury which either way are cancer causing substances. So you accumulate so much amount of mercury on your skin, which will react with Ultra-Violet radiation from the sun, greatly increasing the risks of skin cancer and increasing the rate of aging.
At this point, it must be mentioned that melanin is what God has put in our skin, knowing the intensity of the heat of the sun in the side of the Sahara. By using any bleaching process to cut off it supply, the skin’s protection against the sun is voluntarily withdrawn, and it’s not like you won’t go out again so as not to meet the sun.
But then, when usage is prolonged the health risks are even worse. When those products are used for a long time, it accumulates in the skin exposing the user to very high risks of kidney failure, liver failure or even worse mercury poisoning.
Unlike most countries in Africa, a ban has been placed on over-the-counter non-prescribed sales of products that contain up to 2% Hydroquinone in the UK and US; seeing that their unrestricted circulation poses a major health threat.
I have realised that this problem is peculiar to Africa; in fact, in places like India, Singapore, China, Malaysia and some other places, the market is said to be really large.
But then what drives that hideous desire to completely change or slightly alter one’s color type? To sleep one night a beautiful black woman and wake up the next morning a scary make-believe shadow of a faded white woman? Well many things, the most evident is inferiority complex. Just as a psychoanalysts argue, the predominant desire or drive in humans is the drum major instinct; the desire to stand out, to be desired, respected and be important. No wonder people can give anything or do anything to feed a repressed ego.
Somehow due to the colonial nature of our past, inferiority complex mentality has been so imprinted in our mental skies so deep that somehow we still find ourselves entangled in the maelstrom it often churns up (of course we are always too quick to dismiss this possibility), so we catch ourselves time and again battling with a self-inflicted ideology that tell us deep within that the next girl in white skin is better than we, no matter who we may be. But the truth is if we are proud of our colour, we would not try to change it.
Some others argue that although they don’t approve of outright color change, but bleaching helps in enhancing and improving their skin condition provided they don’t overdo it. Well if the cream you are using is the one you bought from the market or supermarket, you must also remember that cancer does not understand English language. Maybe you are bleaching to look more funky so your boyfriend or husband will appreciate you the more, then its sure that he will regard you no better than a leper when eventually you are diagnosed with skin cancer.
While trying to be like the celebrity we see on E! , Channel O and Instagram, globalization is taking a deadly toll on the Nigerian and African mind. Day after Day, we get our minds fed about how inadequate, helpless, useless, and spineless we have become yet we never get tired of being the “spineless” ‘follow follow’ we have become. So we try to shed our personality to become a clueless duplicate of some other persons just to feel good.
They have brought tattooing and we copied; weave-ons and human hairs and we are buying, they have brought aids and untold millions are dying, only heaven knows what next they will bring tomorrow. But we know for sure, whatever it is, we will buy. And that, not the swiftly changing colours, are the real tragedy.
This article was featured in Y! Africa magazine’s issue 13 | 2013