Much Ado about Bleaching!

Bleaching the skin is first a psychosocial problem because it stems from the ideology that dark skin is not as beautiful or attractive as light skin. This ideology is often promoted by society and is a residual influence from colonial times.

Many people believe lighter skin is not only more attractive or beautiful, but it also affords them better opportunities both economically and socially and in many instances this appears to be true.

Men are often more attracted to light skinned women and quite a few job offers come with light skin as a requirement especially in the advertising and entertainment industries and sometimes in the corporate world as well.

However, skin bleaching is really a harmful practice that originates from an inferiority complex about dark skin and results in long term complications, many of which are irreversible and some of which are potentially life threatening.

Our dark colour is a natural adaptation to the intense sunlight we experience in this part of the world. Melanin, which is the pigment in our skin that gives us our skin colour, protects the skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun which can alot of damage to the skin.

People who live in tropical regions in Africa, America and Asia generally have darker skin than those who live in temperate regions like Northern Europe. We produce more melanin because we need more sun protection.

Colored skin, bleaching and the environment
Skin color in the tropics

Harmful ultraviolet rays (UV) of the sun cause photo aging, wrinkling, sunspots and even more serious problems like skin cancer. Melanin gives natural protection against such. Sunscreen creams also work by protecting against these rays.

Skin bleaching
Skin bleaching and UV radiations

When people bleach their skin they inhibit that natural sun protection (melanin) and this leaves their skin more exposed to the harmful sun’s rays, especially as most people who bleach do not use any other form of sun protection.

Bleaching also has the tendency to make the skin thinner which also reduces its sun protection abilities. People who bleach are likely to have their skin age 3 to 4 times faster than those who don’t.

Bleaching may seem desirable initially but ultimately results in many undesirable consequences which include:

•Stretch marks

•Dyschromias (skin of many colours)

•Recurrent skin infections

•Generalised pruritus (itching of the skin)

•Rapidly aging skin

•Roasted plantain like fingers and toes (Boli)

•Increased number of age spots and moles

“Boli” (roasted ripe plantain) fingers from skin whitening

•Skin cancer

•Internal problems like Kidney failure, Hypertension and Diabetes (in some cases, especially when steroids are used to bleach)

Skin whitening
Stretch marks from skin toning

It is important to note that the complications of bleaching do not start immediately and may take a few months or years to manifest and by then they are often irreversible. The skin will initially look good before the side effects begin to show.

So it is sometimes difficult to convince people who bleach that their skin or health problems are caused by their cream and they often say “But I’ve been using this cream or soap for years.”

Some parents even bleach their children’s skin which may expose them to a myriad of health problems in future because a child’s skin is thinner than adults skin and absorbs even more of what is put on it into the blood stream

Please just love your skin colour! To have healthy, shiny skin – eat healthily, drink lots of water, use mild skin care products and avoid excess sun exposure. Every complexion can look beautiful and glow. #loveyourskin
If you have skin issues or concerns its best to see a dermatologist, a doctor specially trained to manage skin problems or a certified aesthetician. Getting skin advise or buying soaps or creams from uncertified skin “experts” can be very dangerous!

Love your colour. Please don’t bleach your skin or your children’s skin. If you want to ‘maintain your colour’ use a sunscreen cream instead. (With SPF 50 or above if you live in the tropics). Black don’t crack! Black is beautiful and black is safe! #dontbleach-#Brownskingirl#

Our brothers and sisters help us reduce skin bleaching by not discriminating against people because of skin colour. Those ads that say ‘ light skin models needed for a TV advert’ need to stop. Music videos need to have ALL shades of video vixens not just yallow ones! 👇

Dear tweeps, what other ways do you think the harmful practice of skin bleaching can be discouraged or prevented?

Or do you think it’s really just a personal choice?

Please share your thoughts….

This article is the intellectual property of:

Folakemi Cole Adeife #FixNaijaHealthCare


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