Scrolling through social media platforms, there isn’t a day that passes by without running into an advertisement about skin-lightening products often tagged “organic skin care” on the timeline. With how saturated the beauty market is with these products, it only goes to show that the demand for skin-bleaching services is high and thus, a perfect avenue to make loads of cash. And in a country like Nigeria where skin- bleaching is unrepentantly at a high rate, making money off it is no problem.
A couple of months back, a video went viral on the internet which left many people outraged and in shock. In the video, a lady was immersed face down in what looked like a bathtub filled with an unidentified liquid substance. Another lady was bent over her, scraping what she referred to as ‘dead skin’. And as she scraped off the top skin, a lighter version appeared underneath. The lady who was kind enough to put viewers through the process, referred to it as ‘instant skin lightening’. It came as no surprise when the video gained traction online. Not only did people find it ridiculously unsanitary, the mere fact this so called skin therapist wasn’t scraping dead skin but the topmost layer of the skin which is very vital for wound healing, gave a lot of people reasons to worry.
One would expect that this quack skin therapist would cower and hide in shame but that was far from the case as she released another video shortly after, smugly defending her method of skin bleaching. One thing which piqued my interest was the fact that she claimed a lot of people were in her DM expressing their interest in the instant bleaching. So, despite it being a highly risky and hazardous procedure, there were still women willing to risk it all to become light skinned. This just goes to show how deeply rooted this belief of light skin being the generally accepted beauty standard, is.
Due to the high-risk nature of skin bleaching which has been known to cause skin cancer, kidney failure and many other health issues, one would assume that people would steer clear. However, the gains of skin bleaching in a country like Nigeria where colourism is practiced, seems to outweigh the dire consequences.
It may appear that there has been a reawakening in the society that bothers on the need to love and be proud of our heritage and most importantly, our skin, with songs and social media campaigns preaching this gospel.
Sadly, the high level of the appreciation of the dark skin on social media is not the same in reality. It is common knowledge that light-skinned women are considered more attractive than dark-skinned women. As hard as it is to believe, there are organizations that favour light-skinned women over dark skinned ones. The logic behind their choice may vary from one organization to the other. Several months ago, a job advert went viral on the internet as one of the requirements emphasized on being light-skinned as an advantage. The same thing can be seen in the choice of models used for the famous Delta Soap adverts; all light-skinned women. While Delta soap is not a skin-bleaching product, the ad agency however knows that having this particular shade of light-skinned women is one of the easiest ways to create a lasting impression in the minds of prospective consumers.
This explains why despite the uproar that surround American star Blac Chyna’s visit to Nigeria to market a skin-bleaching product she was an ambassador for, she still came and most interestingly, sold them.
There are men who find these spec of women more attractive and this is another reason many people believe women bleach their skin. While skin-bleaching bothers on deep-seated self-esteem and insecurity issues, that reason is not so far fetched.
This probably explains why Nigerian singer and producer, Tekno allegedly refused to work with a dark-skinned model for one of his music videos.
This also reflects clearly in the story of Toke Makinwa and her failed marriage.
When the Nigerian media personality released her tell-all book about her marriage and the things she had to go through, it caused quite a frenzy on the internet. Among the many things she said, one stood out and that was the fact that she admitted to bleaching her skin in order to keep her then husband, a dark-skinned man identified as Maje.
It was the topic of discussion on almost every social media platform. While many people applauded her honesty, others tagged her an insecure woman who sought outside validation.Today, not only does she flaunt her expensively purchased light skin, she also has a skin care line for woman with interest in lightening their skin colour. For this fashionista celeb who lives a flamboyant lifestyle unapologetically, it may appear that being light-skinned paid off after all and what better way than to cash out on it, right?
But she wouldn’t be the first and sadly, not the last.
Popular effeminate social media celeb, Bobrisky first became an internet sensation for being a cross-dresser. However, while a lot of people were yet to wrap their heads around his choice of lifestyle, what appeared to fascinate people was his incredible transformation from a dark-skinned man to a very light-skinned “male barbie”.
Shortly after he became an internet sensation, he too just like many others, started his own skin-care line for women with interest in bleaching their skin. Although he has since stopped selling, Bobrisky at the time boasted of having loads of customers. Despite the backlash he received, he made it a point to brag about the millions he claimed to have made from the sales of these products.Today, Bobrisky uses old photos from when he was a dark man as a pictorial representation of suffering and his light-skinned photos, as living the good life in the success lane. You see, even as a man, Bobrisky knew that the only way to becoming that attractive woman he gladly now identifies as, he needed to brighten his skin colour to attract the desired type of men.
While we are quick to tag Bobrisky an ignorant fellow, this is the mentality of a lot of African women and has been so for a long time now.
If the health risks involved has done little to discourage people from bleaching their skin, you can be rest assured that nothing else can. Banning these products will only encourage a booming business for the black market which will cause even more damage as they won’t be regulated.
The skin-bleaching trend will remain for as long as we continue to consume western culture which are solid through the global media. For not only does it make us question our beliefs about our race and culture, it continuously sells to us the idea that being light-skinned is the only accepted standard of beauty.
When we are ready to learn how to trust our own inner guide, only then will we be able to know who we really are and fully understand the importance of preserving our identity.
Until then, skin-bleaching will remain a trend we love to hate.