Yellow Fever: The Naked Truth of Skin Bleaching

Written by on October 13, 2017

Chemical bleaching is responsible for a host of dangerous possible side effects, including osteoporosis, photosensitivity, and indirectly, skin cancer.

It can be said that the Nigerian state of mind is suffering from a self-inflicted yellow fever. We as a nation have become obsessed with bleaching our skin, much to the detriment of our society. We Nigerians are a proud people. Low self-esteem is not often associated with the average Nigerian citizen. However, the perpetuation and glamorisation of skin-lightening practices pose a threat to this national pride as well as the physical health of our people.

Fellow Nigerians, why is it that we associate lighter skin tone with success, class, beauty and refinement? This is what we must ask ourselves: what does the pigmentation of a person’s skin have to do with their overall desirability?

The prevalence of bleaching in the Nigerian entertainment industry is particularly appalling. How many of our favourite dark-skinned actresses and musicians have become increasingly lighter in complexion over the course of their careers?

Come to think of it, the practice has a dangerous influence on the Nigerian youth. The industry’s promotion of skin whitening encourages the same behaviour and inspires self-hatred within the younger generation. Some entertainers even go as far as mass producing and selling these creams to their young and gullible fans.

This abominable skin-whitening endemic must be wiped out. Chemical bleaching is responsible for a host of dangerous possible side effects, including osteoporosis, photosensitivity, and indirectly, skin cancer. Worse still, it perpetuates the very Eurocentric beauty standards that keep diaspora Nigerians locked out of economic opportunities worldwide.

Several West African countries have worked to eliminate the poisonous practice. As of May 2015, Ivory Coast banned the use of all lightening creams, as a result of the damaging effects they have on the skin.

Other African countries have also followed suit. Ghana, for example, took the initiative to ban the importation of all beauty products containing the controversial skin-lightening chemical, hydroquinone. These countries are setting an example that Nigeria cannot afford to ignore.

According to the World Health Organisation, Nigeria has the world’s highest percentage of women using skin lightening products. A staggering seventy-seven percent of women in Nigeria bleach their skin! When asked about their reasons for this, Nigerian women often reply, tragically, that they want to look white.

We must foster a culture of unapologetic appreciation of our African features. If we hope to live in a world in which darker and lighter skin tones are considered equal, we must do more to shape it. Indeed, as the late Afro maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti labelled it, we must eradicate the yellow fever endemic that plagues us. May God Bless the people of our beloved Country, Nigeria.


This commentary was written by Funmilayo Adetokubo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, based in Somerset, England, United Kingdom.

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