AFRICANGLOBE – Skin lightening is a big thing in Africa. In Nigeria 77 percent of women use lightening products, but it’s also a regular part of beauty regimens in Togo, South Africa, Senegal, and Mali, where 59, 35, 27, and 25 percent of women use them, respectively.
Yet despite their popularity, many of these skin-lightening creams contain stuff that can kill you. That in mind, recently Ivory Coast banned creams containing cortisone, hydroquinone (in concentrations over 2 percent), mercury, or vitamin A and its derivate. According to Ivory Coast authorities, the health risks associated with the creams can include increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, and skin cancer, which, given their popularity, could transform a beauty trend into a public health crisis.
Skin lightening products are also hugely popular in Asia, with the largest global market being in India, where over 60 percent of women (and a growing number of men) consumed 233 metric tons of the products, including vaginal bleaching washes, in 2012. That year, the $400 million-plus market outsold Coca-Cola. And the trend is growing worldwide—at a rate of 20 percent per year in India, but by similar rates in other countries.
In Asia, the preference for light skin and use of whitening products dates back hundreds to thousands of years, and is most often attributed to the connection between fairness and wealth and luxury (allowing one to stay out of the sun). In Africa, however, if the practice has ancient roots they are largely unknown or unrecognized popularly. Local psychologists describe the trend as an expression of self-hatred and inferiority stemming from colonial racial attitudes, reinforced by local and global media stereotypes and aggressive modern cosmetics industry ad campaigns associating wealth and status with light-to-white skin. read more