Skin Whitening: Is Bleached Beauty Desirable Than Natural?

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Kenyan socialite, Vera Sidika came out and confessed whitening her skin “so as to look desirable”.

Not only did the confession attract national attention, but actually started up a global platform; #BleachedBeauty. This was for the world to give their views on skin whitening.

However, the attention that has been accorded to skin bleaching in recent weeks would make one feel like the practice is new.

Uganda, where I come from, people especially local celebrities have been known to bleach their skins from way back. The bleaching trend has actually over the years shot up as homemade, cosmetic, and dermatological products have become easily accessible.

Inspite of a ban on bleaching products, they are continuously being smuggled in. The Uganda National Bureau of Standards and National Drug Authority have tried to crack down on bleaching cosmetics, but their efforts have not been successful.

The trend is actually going up though still ‘hush hush’ among public. This was seen recently when one of the country’s socialite, Shanita Namuyimbwa aka Bad Black was re-arrested after her extradition from Rwanda.

The public and media focused more on her skin that had totally changed; making her look the opposite of herself in a period of only 6 months that she was away.

Still wondering why people bleach? Well, according to Psychologists, there are many reasons for contemporary skin bleaching.

These include the fashionableness of skin bleaching; the popularity of the practice; the support the practice receives from family and friends; the belief that light skin attracts intimate partners; spousal desire; the belief that one’s skin is too dark; the belief that light skin is beautiful; in an attempt to remove facial pimples and blemishes; in an effort to tone the skin; the belief that light complexion facilitates social mobility; the desire for identity negotiation; as a result of miseducation; and self-hatred, which is the commonest reason purported.

Surprisingly, the top countries that embrace the practice are all third world countries! Countries like Nigeria are experiencing epidemic numbers related to this potentially dangerous trend.

The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates 77 percent of women in Nigeria use skin-lightening products; the highest percentage in the world. Not far behind is Togo at 59 percent and Senegal at 27 percent. The trend is spreading, and women in Uganda are starting to look at this unhealthy beauty fad.

Majority of the Ugandans obsess about skin whitening so as to be perceived as ‘whiter’. Singer Leila Kayondo,  Shamir Ssengendo, Zali and Bella, are believed to be bleaching their skins and they are not alone!

There are tens of world pop stars that are believed to be or to have bleached their skins with the notables being Micheal Jackson, his big sister Latoya Jackson, Trina, jailed Dancehall star Vybz Kartel Lil Kim among others.

Vybz Kartel before his arrest said “this is my new image. You can expect the unexpected. I feel comfortable with black people lightening their skin. They want a different look. It’s tantamount to white people getting a sun tan,” Kartel said in an interview.

South Africa is marketed to the world as a rainbow nation, where everyone is proud of their race and heritage. But for some black South Africans, there is such a thing as being too black. Local musician Nomasonto ‘Mshoza’ Mnisi, now several shades lighter, says her new skin makes her feel more beautiful and confident.

“I’ve been black and dark-skinned for many years, I wanted to see the other side. I wanted to see what it would be like to be white and I’m happy,” Mshoza says.

Yvonne Nelson is a Ghanaian actress, model, film producer and entrepreneur. A former Miss Ghana contestant, Yvonne shot to fame after a big screen role in “Princess Tyra” and Playboy. Yvonne has denied that she has bleached her skin.

Sammy Sosa is a retired professional baseball player who played with four Major League Baseball teams over a 19-year career. During an interview, Sosa reportedly smiled when talking about what the cream does for his face.

He said, “It’s a bleaching cream that I apply before going to bed and whitens my skin some. It’s a cream that I have, that I use to soften my skin. I live my life happily.”

However, like any addiction, skin whitening  is not without risk. WebMD indicates there are a number of issues associated with bleaching, primarily the fact that research suggests 1 in 4 commercial skin whiteners contain mercury.

The other risks are premature aging of the skin, increased risk of skin cancer from sun exposure, ingredients may cause thinning of the skin, acne, skin infections, and delayed wound healing.

The steroids contained in skin whiteners also may cause long-term health issues. Some skin whitening products may cause permanent skin discoloration, possible irritation or allergic reaction.

Skin lightening has been an issue in Africa for some time and came to the fore earlier this year when Nigerian-Cameroonian pop star Dencia launched a cream called Whitenicious.

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