Skin Bleaching & Colonial Notions of Beauty in Africa

Following the big skin whitening campaign in Nigeria that became a big topic of discussion on social media when Blac Chyna announced that she would be travelling to Nigeria to promote her skin whitening cream, we came to realise that an estimate of 77% of women in Nigeria use skin bleaching cosmetics in order to obtain a whiter complexion. This shocking statistic raised awareness concerning the state of our self-image as African women. The World Health Organisation revealed in 2011, that more than 60 million people are using lightening products on a regular basis. How is it possible that such a large population of women are participating in what seems to be an act of poor self image?

Rwanda has recently become involved in the skin bleaching conversation, in a completely different way. Rwandan government has recently outlawed skin bleaching products and practises. Dermatologist Dr. Claudia Moloabi appeared on eNCA in August 2018, warning viewers that these cosmetics contain prohibited toxins like hydroquinone, mercury, steroids and lead, which are poisonous and damage the skin severely in the long term.

Lester Davids, a physiology professor at the University of Pretoria shared his observations on the topic saying that “the older generation used creams whilst the new generation uses pills and injectables. The horror is that we do not know what these things do in high concentrations over time in the body.”

Doctors and health specialists in Ghana have reported incidents in which they have had to stop women from applying skin bleaching creams on their babies and have even had to ask pregnant/breastfeeding women not to take the skin bleaching pills because of the harm it can do to the babies health.

Although Rwanda is receiving a lot of praise from cultural pro-Africans for banning these products, not everybody is happy with this decision. A Rwandan woman who was interviewed by eNCA stated, “these products make a woman feel beautiful.” Another complained, “If I don’t have these products I am afraid I will become too dark like I used to be. I still have a few products left but I hate the thought of becoming darker.”

“Skin bleaching is one manifestation of folks trying to get power and privilege aligned with whiteness,” says Yaba Blay, a researcher at North Carolina Central University. KwaZulu Natal’s ban on these cosmetics was issued with a statement urging all Africans to reject the colonial notions of beauty.

We at Girl Boss are very big on self love and self care; it is our biggest motivation and we are always inspired by women who love themselves. A poor self image is very harmful to the self esteem and it makes it nearly impossible to achieve the point of loving and caring for yourself adequately. The alarming rate at which this skin whitening phenomenon owns Africans is deeply disturbing to us and we want to do everything we can to bring self love back to African women. We are beautiful. Social media movements like #MelaninPoppin and #BlackGirlMagic are important and they should stay alive until our self-deprication is completely eradicated. A true Girl Boss loves the skin she is in!


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