Across the continent of Africa, health and black empowerment activists alike are struggling to face a scourge of skin lightening creams that continue to be sought in high demand on black markets in spite of bans on the products, which can cause severe damage to the skin with consistent use.
Oluwatoyin Ajoke, a shopkeeper in Lagos, Nigeria, told the AFP that she had used skin lightening products every day for seven years. And even though in recent months she’d been bothered by skin irritation and the emergence of strange dark spots, she nonetheless insisted that the creams were having a positive impact on her day-to-day life.
“Since I started using this cream people have been complimenting me,” said Ajoke. “My skin isn’t too dark or too light. I keep my natural complexion.”
Edmund Delle, a dermatologist, from Accra Ghana, said that many people spend hundreds of dollars a month on creams, which over time caused deep lasting damage to their skin, often resulting in a condition called ochronis, a condition caused by a build-up of acids in the skin that manifests through dark discolorations. The health risks, he said, do little to dissuade people who feel that lighter skin will benefit them at work and in their love lives.
“In my last research, I found out that when you go to the marketplaces, six out of 10 bleach,” said Delle.
Critics of the creams have pointed to a long history of demonization of black skin by European powers during their colonial control of the continent. Last November, German personal care brand Nivea faced outrage from black empowerment activists over billboard advertisements in African countries for a skin care cream that would “visibly lighten” their skin. According to a 201 World Health Organization report, 77 percent of women in Nigeria were using skin lightening creams.
Watch Ajoke and Delle’s interviews with AFP below.
Read the full story at the AFP.