Skin Bleaching Culture in Africa & the Effects

After a sudden interest on skin bleaching Culture. I decided that it would be a good idea to talk about a certain problem that has been circulating among black women and this is skin bleaching. I want to talk about what skin bleaching really is. The physical effects of skin bleaching as well as the psychological effects of skin bleaching.

Before i carry on, i would like to say that i am no doctor, am no psychologist. Everything posted on this blog post as well as my blog in general, are things that i have learned through research and experience throughout my the years of dabbling in natural skin care. Also, i am not judging anybody who chooses to undergo bleaching or lightening of any kind. I am merely expressing my views on the matter and hoping that i can spread some knowledge on the matter.

As mentioned above, skin bleaching is a topic that has hit the black community by storm in recent years. And i have noticed quite a few people emailing me and messaging me on twitter on ways to “naturally” lighten complexion. And it makes me cringe every single time and i will tell you why. There are many factors that come into play when someone looks into the mirror and thinks to themselves “if only i was 3 shades lighter”. “If only i was light skin” “Life as yellow bone would be so much easier”. And thinking a simple solution could be applying some bleaching cream in hopes for a better life.


Firstly, i would like to just talk about the dangerous ingredients that are used in bleaching creams. As well as other bleaching methods which have some serious side effects to your health. Common ingredients used in skin bleaching include mercury as well as hydroquinone… sounds scary right? That’s because it is. Hydroquinone has been said to be very dangerous for the human skin. It is a carcinogenic chemical, meaning it has a direct link to cancer.

If you want to imagine how harsh this chemical is on your skin. Think about the fact that it is the exact same chemical that is used to remove tattoos. Basically what this chemical does is that it inhibits the production of melanin (pigmentation found in the skin which is responsible for giving skin colour). And if you know anything about melanin, you know that it offers us, people of colour, natural protection from the sun. So, inhibiting the production of melanin makes your skin super sensitive to the sun and without any protection.

Mercury is also a carcinogen. It is especially dangerous if the skin is exposed to sunlight soon after using the bleach cream. Using products with Mercury can also result in irritated skin such as rashes and discolouration as well as the skin’s reduced ability to fight infections. The excessive use of bleach cream also results in breakouts such as acne as well as thinning of the skin which may result in stretch marks and bruising.


What we need to know when dealing with skin care products of any kind, not just bleaching creams, is that the skin is directly connected to our bloodstream. Therefore, anything we apply topically enters our blood stream and travels throughout our body and into different organs. Why am i telling you this? because research has found that being exposed to mercury has been known to cause problems in kidneys, the nervous system as well as the brain.

whilst i am aware that some people use bleaching methods to even out skin tone as well as to lighten some dark marks in problem areas, i do not think that bleaching creams are worth it. i do not think that bleaching creams are worth the trouble and i do not think they are worth the hazardous chemicals and the risk of ruining your skin.


Some better, non-toxic (but can still have some bad side-effects depending on the sensitivity of your skin) include natural lightening of the skin. in more natural lightening creams ingredients like kojic acid, alpha hydroxyl acids and arbutin are used. This is because the harsher ingredients have been banned in so many countries and that should actually say something! kojic acid is often used in skin lightening creams and is obtained from mushrooms.

Although being a natural substance, kojic acid, when used over a long period of time, may cause skin sensitivity to the sun as well as to other products or elements. Kojic acid also leaves the skin prone to dryness. Symptoms include red, dry and flaky skin which is hypersensitive. Alpha hydroxyl acids are food substances and found in citrus fruits. Now, this one is more widely used but that does not make it completely safe to use because it also has the same effects on the skin, when used over a prolonged period of time.


Now, like i sort of touched on earlier, we all have our own reasons as to why we choose to so certain things. But i decided to read some articles from black women who have bleached their skin in order to figure out what the driving force behind someone who wants to “rectify” (and i use that word loosely because there should not be anything to rectify in the first place) their skin tone.

Most of the articles i read presented a sense of self-hate, low self-esteem. As well as reasons brought about by the fact that beauty is a social construct. In many communities, women of lighter skin variation are seen as more socially acceptable or beautiful as opposed to women of a darker skin variation. And i ask myself why is it that women of darker pigmentation are always trying to figure out ways of becoming lighter in order to be more “socially acceptable”.


If i had to stand up and say i know what life is like as a woman who has dark complexion, i would be lying to everybody including myself. And if i had to stand up and say “there is no such thing as light skin is better, all women of all pigmentation are equal” i would also be lying. We need to realise that although we are Africans, most of our media is saturated with Eurocentric ideologies. These ideologies stem form a small group of elite white men (this is factual and you can look it up).

White women features are seen as more acceptable and beautiful. From skinny bodies, to silky straight hair, straight pointy nose. Even when black women are on tv, more often than not, it is black women of a lighter skin variation, with Indian hair. Every time this happens we are cultivated into thinking that socially acceptable women look a certain way.


I have no issue with women doing what they want to do with their bodies. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking measures to better yourself in any way. My problem is women of colour feeling inadequate or socially unacceptable. To the point where they (un)knowingly do harm to their body and their health. Black women need to know that melanin is healthy and it is beautiful. This is all part of the capitalism scheme; they offer you images of what they deem as beautiful and offer you “solutions” afterwards.


I was sad to read that Africa has some of the highest cases of skin bleaching. Nigeria is leading with 80% of black women using skin bleaching treatments. Ladies, you are beautiful and you are enough. And although its easier said than done. (especially coming from someone with no first hand experience). We need to learn to love our skin. At the end of the day, people with more melanin are better off than those who have less. It is ultimate protection. Black skin is glorious and it is built for the sun! I mean, who wouldn’t want to look 25 for 40 years!

so stop bleaching your skin. It is stupid and its detrimental to your health. Lets step out of the brainwash and the white wash, lets identify it and rebel against it. Let us love ourselves because we owe it to ourselves. Here’s a summary below of all the dangers that involve bleaching one’s skin.

You are God’s creation.

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