More often than not, the colour of one`s skin plays a significant role in the assessment of their beauty in Africa. The issue of skin colour is, to some in Africa, synonymous with one`s identity. Lighter skin colour is often associated with beauty and glamour as well as accorded much respect in many African cultures. Suffice is to say, therefore, that many Africans, especially women, are leaving no stone unturned – including spending a fortune on toning creams, despite their economic malaise ““ to satisfy their insatiable desire to be light complexioned. This they often accomplished by sadly indeed, “bleaching“ their natural skin lighter. Nowhere in Africa is this new `bleaching identity` more pronounced than in Zaire, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Guinea.
As part of the new African identity, many African women travel to the toning cream Mecca like Nigeria, to equip themselves with the latest skin bleaching cosmetics. They quickly introduce the “reigning identity“ to their various countries. It is therefore not a big coincidence that many women from Zaire and Liberia who immigrated to countries like Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Ghana to escape the civil conflicts in their countries ended up importing the new “bleaching culture,“ which they have adopted and internalized. Back to their their various countries, the bleaching identity and the vicious circle continue.
Asked by our reporter why she uses toning cream, one woman on the Williams street in Morovia. Liberia who identified herself simply as Veronica said that she was a victim of an ultimatum by her boyfriend, who demanded that her body must be “smooth like a ripe tomato“ otherwise he would leave her for a “lighter“ woman.
“Not only my boyfriend, many other men like light skin women. The lighter your skin, the better. I tell you, my ex boyfriend broke my heart because he left me for one, mulato woman because he was very captivated by her shine – shine skin. After that, my sister, I swore me, I want my skin to shine and smooth like polished floor` Veronica narrated rather timidly.
Other women our reporter interviewed in Liberia, Zaire, Ghana and Nigeria clearly corroborated Veronica`s view. One of them from Zaire claimed that her countrymen, are in fact more enslaved to the bleaching cream than their women because these men think that women prefer light complexioned men. “Haven’t you asked yourself why many Zairian men are light skinned?“ She questioned surprisingly.
But not everyone agreed with the “light – skin addiction“ in Africans. While some think that African women who use toning cream are products of inferiority complex, others believe they are harbingers of dermatological doom, including cancer.
“I have no single respect for any woman or man who uses toning cream. It is a pity that while other people are proud of their skin colour, we Africans are busy imitating the Whites and frying off our skin pigments dead just to look like what we are not and never will be. We should be physically and mentally proud of our skin colour and who we are. ` One Kwakoe Ajumani from Coast Ivory lamented.
Mr. Ajumani went on to lament his experience with his first girlfriend. He was at first, according to him, carried away by her looks; but he started to get worried the first time he became intimate with her. She had to spend almost one hour in the bathroom before she eventually came to the bedroom. But the story did not end there, according to Ajumani. When she removed her clothes, he saw, what he called, “different colours“ on the body. “The “python ““ like“ skin colour killed my urge ““ and increased my curiosity.“ He later searched her bag secretly only to find a trailer load of what he termed cost-metics; most of them were toning creams. He intimated. “It was then I started looking at her body closer and discovered more patches like a coloured paper which is touched by the rain. Worse still, I also noticed that the skin has one offensive odour. Maybe I was deeply carried away by my first impression.“ He concluded.
Irrespective of Mr Ajumani ´s conclusion, there is little doubt that the skin toning product is a booming business in Africa. One Mr Apia, a dark skinned, bleaching cream seller in Ghana told our reporter that he could not imagine a better business. Surrounded by many female (and males) customers, Mr Apia stood out amongst his light complexioned customers.When our reporter asked whether the toning creams had any negative effects on the users, the seller smiled and quickly answered that he was not a doctor or dermatologist. Pressed further, he revealed, albeit in a very low voice, that once one stopped using the bleaching cream, the skin would begin to have patches of tricolour. However, he quickly added, this time to the hearing of his customers, `but we have other creams to remove the patches. No problems. ` He assured his gullible customers.
“Oh sister you look fine. Your skin, light paaaaa more than last time. Oh the cream works well ““well. Those men will follow you like fly now. ” Mr Apia, the fastidious seller complimented one of his female clients, who smiled proudly in return. Outside the shop, one albino woman was waiting for a bus. Kata Kata ´s correspondent asked one of the bleaching cream shoppers whether she would like to be as light as the albino.
`Me, albino? God forbid bad thing!` She responded angrily.
`But you want to be like the White, what is the difference between the albino and White? ` The reporter asked
`No, she is different. Me, I don`t want to be like her.` She replied vehemently.
Different medical research works have shown that skin toning cream could be dangerous. More seriously, some researchers have attributed ““ although without certainty – many cases of skin cancer to the use of toning cream, which often contains hydroquinone, a stuff that is widely banned in many advanced countries of the world. Could skin toning be responsible for the rapid rise of skin cancer sickness in Africa?
Ironically, while many Africans are busy bleaching their skins, some of their White counterparts are, in turn, basking in the sun like an Agama lizard, to darken their skin, or to use one white woman`s words, `to get colour.` Either way, the skin could be damaged by the sun. This is often the case when Melanin, which controls the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun that penetrates the skin by absorption, is mercilessly exposed to UV. One might say that melanin helps to protect the skin against cancer. Like albinos whose bodies lack the ability to produce melanin, light complexioned people are more likely to have skin cancer, especially when their skins are exposed to aggressive sun.
The above conclusion seems to reflect the warning of one 89 year old woman near Mr Apia ´s shop.
`My daughter, me, I tell you true, many of those young – young people who want to look like White don`t want to live longer and have white hair like me. If you use a cream and change your skin, why you think that cream can`t destroy your skin too? I tell you, those people don`t know who they are and what they want. `
That one is an identity problem our reporter said jokingly.
`I tell you. ` The old woman replied.
The above story is a parody. It is entirely fictitious; therefore none of the characters mentioned in the story are real.