Skin Lightening: Why Africans Use It
Written by Jeanette Lekgabe: Guest Blogger
Skin lightening products has flooded African markets and the industry is still booming. Research shows the countries contributing profits to the companies behind this method of “beautification” include Mali, South Africa, Togo and Nigeria. The question still remains…Why?
Africa, known as The Motherland, has been intoxicated by this “beauty treatment” of which most question, including me. However, most communities in the continent seem addicted to this skincare regimen despite the lack of research regarding long term affects to the skin. The black market, which preys on the poor, has vastly grown as the demand for these types of products has increased; meanwhile, the rich and famous can afford high quality products. They the money needed to access to the proper professionals who consult and provide their dermatological and cosmetic skincare needs.
This is how it works…
The Have-Nots: Those that do not have the money usually get these products at a cheaper price from any street vendor that are usually located on most corners in the communities. What some do not know, while many do, but choose to ignore is that most of these products contain a harmful chemicals such as hydroquinone, which is mainly used in paints and photographic developing solutions and also the most commonly used one mercury, all of which can cause irreversible damage to the skin when continuously used.
Now that you know the basics of lightening creams, let’s get into the history of how the categorization and segregation of Light skinned vs Dark skinned began…
The term “yellow bone” gained popularity in the United States of America and later made its way to the South of Africa. South Africa refers to light complexioned Black people (more specifically, the woman). This term took a toll on most and segregated dark and light skinned individuals, which caused emotional conflict where most found it hard to discuss fairly or to even simply articulate.
Can this be a disorder? If so, here are the most globally recognized symptoms:
- Skin Lighting (Bleaching)
- Veneration and Lack of Self-Love
- Lack of Group Unity and Trust
The idea of colorism goes back to Colonial history. Oddly, British aristocrats embraced and aspired to have pale skin like “milk” and “porcelain.” Having light-skin was perceived to come with privileges, social profile, better employment and change of marital status. Their concept and standard of beauty holds no place for beholding melanin and celebrating pigmentation. It later became a tool for oppression. Contemporary marketing campaigns take advantage of this social dynamic and perpetuate this perverted myth by sending a strong and consistent message through their advertising:
The lighter you are you are significantly more socially accepted, therefore the more benefits in life await you. The darker you are the less attractive you seem to most.
This has become so ingrained in African society; women of darker complexion literally work harder to be valued in the community than those with a lighter skin-tone. Her quality of life is influenced. Her self esteem is impacted.
Unfortunately, this will always be the norm to most. So to my fellow Beautiful, Dark-skinned Women -segregated or not, light or dark – the Dream is big and we have the Power. Hustle hard, work diligently in whatever you’re doing, and choose the right way to live. Fearlessly aspire to what pleases and satisfies you. Be uniquely you and stand proud.
Make your own mark and WEAR YOUR AFRICAN SKIN PROUD!
I stand for BLACK, so should YOU.
About the Author:
Jeanette Lekgabe is a Blogger from South Africa. She has first hand experiences with the difficulties that darker skinned women face in the South African Region. Learn more about Jeanette and read some of her fiction writing by visiting her Blog at Darted Africa.