Skin Bleaching: When Black Is Ugly

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Beautiful and Bleached octIt was another day in the ever bustling Oshodi-Apapa expressway. Seeing that I was running late, I decided to alight from the tricycle I boarded and walked the remaining distance to my destination. Soon enough I saw what I had hoped to avoid today…as she walked past me, I couldn’t help but turn and look back. No, it is not what you are thinking. I was not enamoured with her beauty or curves, I was rather jolted by the result or the near-self immolation this young lady had subjected herself to. Her face was a messy patchwork of discolored skin, her back, bare due to the flimsy tank-top she wore, exposed a blotchy and grotesquely discoloured skin.

Turning back to continue my walk, I almost bumped into a second, of the same ilk. And a third, only seconds later. The trio shared one common characteristic; they each looked ghastly and unattractive.

Whatever happened to the black African beauty, I wondered. Sadly the statistics only tell part of the story. According to a recently published report by WHO, 77% of Nigerian women skin-bleach, the highest number anywhere in the world. Several factors can be the reason behind this anomalous behavior amongst Nigerian women and even a growing number of Nigerian men.

Due to the pervasive entertainment culture, imported from the West via print and electronic media, it has become subconsciously ingrained and imbibed that ‘white is beautiful’. Despite the fact that black women around the world have won beauty pageants and accolades, it seems the average Nigerian woman is not proud of her skin color. This obviously is an issue of self-esteem.

Another reason to which this behavior can be adduced to is the culture. Fair women are perceived as being more beautiful, more attractive, desirable, and fertile and possess the often mythical ability of transferring these genes to unborn offspring. This was even eulogized in the famous son “Omo Pupa le min fe” literally meaning by IK Dairo “I need a fair-skinned lady”

Although skin-bleaching may temporarily ‘whiten’ the skin, yet its long term effects are far-reaching, often irreversible and quite distortive. This is because the compounds used in making these skin-lightening creams erode the skin pigment, melanin, which nature endowed on those who inhabit the tropics to enable them survive the heat of the sun.

Despite these facts, there seems to be no end in sight to this behavior as skin-lightening cream manufacturers, somehow realizing that Nigeria is the world’s bleaching capital, prey on a willfully gullible population of users, who also are not protected by the relevant regulatory agencies. Many would say they are not bleaching; they are simply toning but truth is only a difference between six and half-a- dozen.

While the discourse goes on, the main protagonists; the users of these skin-lightening creams are largely unperturbed by the dangers inherent in the products’ continual usage. To them, black does not seem to be beautiful anymore. Fair girls stand out from the crowd they will tell you, so even when they are born ‘black and beautiful’ they would rather ‘almost white and ugly’.

POSER: Do women (and men) need to bleach their skins to be beautiful. Would you do it and would you prefer your partner bleached, toned or natural?

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