Miss Cynthia Peterson (not real name), 24, is a skin care brand influencer. In recent times, her friends and neighbours have noticed some change in her complexion as her skin colour shifts from dark to fair complexion. She had explained that the change is to enable her meet new contract of serving as the face of a new skin ‘toning’ products.
Peterson is not alone in this complexion change phenomenon. Both men and women have found various reasons ranging from career demands, social status and even outright complex to alter the colour of their skin. More often than not they call it ‘toning’, but most people regard it as skin bleaching.
Expert says the human skin is the largest part in the body which serves as protection to the internal human organs and one of the most complicated tissues.
Not only does the skin hold everything, but it also plays a crucial role in providing an air and watertight as well as flexible barriers between the outside world and the highly regulated systems within the body.
According to U.S-based Cleveland Clinics in its verified official website, the skin also protects against germs, regulates body temperature and enables touch sensations. The clinic, one of the leading health institutions in the U.S. said the skin’s main layers include the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis and is prone to many problems, including skin cancer, acne, wrinkles and rashes, says
Given the sensitive nature and importance of the skin, it is expected that it should be treated with utmost care. While many people have kept this advice, others like Peterson consider it necessary to ‘tone’ the skin complexion with various skin products, and in some instances, substances considered harmful to the skin.
Miss Florence Joseph, an Abuja resident corps member, said that many indulge in skin bleaching as a means of attracting the opposite sex for marriage or relationship, adding that some men, for instance prefer fair skinned ladies over dark ones.
“I had an encounter with a male friend who told me that he is bleaching his skin because ladies are not easily attractive to dark guys but fair guys” she said.
Joseph said in her opinion, unfortunately, bleaching the skin cannot change one’s personality rather it destroys the skin gradually resulting in skin cancer and other related skin diseases.
She urged Nigerians to make proper check of skin care products before patronising them bearing in mind the consequences of using inappropriate products.
Mrs Theresa Egbogu, a trader, said she was buying the wrong skin care products while she was in school which eventually affected her complexion.
“I bleached my skin but was not intentional. I never intended to bleach my skin because I wanted to fit into the trend, as a matter of fact, I love my skin. My bleaching was accidental.
“I started using this cream and after sometime I discovered some changes on my skin. I started having sun burns on my face and other parts of my body that was when I realised that something was wrong with the new cream that I was using.
“Then I stopped using it. Although regaining my original lost skin wasn’t easy, I stayed for months without applying cream on my skin but I am happy that at last I succeeded,” she said.
Egbogu advised skin care producers to reduce the quantity of hydroquinone used in producing creams and other skin care products and called on skin care products vendors to always educate their customers before selling any product to them. Hydroquinone is a chemical that bleaches the skin, however, it can be used by people if they have a hyperpigmentation skin condition, such as melasma, a skin diseases characterized by black and gray patches; and freckles.
Mr Isa Abubakar, a skin care products dealer, explained that most people who are involved in skin bleaching see it as a means of beautification, adding that such people are ignorant of the negative implications of applying wrong body products to their skin.
“Another reason why some people indulge in skin bleaching is inferiority complex; while others do it to attract the opposite gender or meet up with the trends in the society”, he said, adding that the later factor is common among young people.
Abubakar said that from his experience of many years in the business, peer influence is another factor that makes some people to bleach their skin.
“All they care about is to lighten up their skin. Most Nigerians are easily influenced with light skin “ he told this writer; and advised skin care users to always consult dermatologists and other skin products experts for the product that suits their skin texture
Dr Seemal Desia, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in a report published in The Dermatologist decried the poor regulation of these products in many countries, saying that the use of indiscriminate use of these products could have devastating consequences for the skin.
Some of the implications, he said, are blistering, skin cracking, blue-blacking, darkening of the skin, body odor, thinning skin and skin cancer.
He, therefore, cautioned against reckless use of bleaching creams because of the adverse health consequences.
Desia added that in some cases, people using skin bleaching products develop a condition called exogenous ochronosis, a rare but permanent adverse effect in which blue and purple pigmentation appears after a long term use of bleaching cream.
Mr Christopher Elosaghe, a sociologist said bleaching is a sub-culture in Africa rooted a negative perception that one need to have a white skin to be considered beautiful.
Elosaghe wondered why bleaching of the skin is rare in the West or even among the workers in skin products manufacturing firms but a common phenomenon among black Africans.
Elosaghe said to curtail skin bleaching among black Africans required socio-cultural re-orientation directed countering the inferiority complex challenge through the propagation of ‘black is beautiful’ or that it does not require a white or yellow complexion to be beautiful.
Against the background of health and psychological implications of skin bleaching it is imperative that this important organ of the body is properly taken care of and spared indulgences that have the potential to hurt it and erode its usefulness to our wellbeing.
By Fidelia Okosodo, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)