It’s true what they say: “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice”, but the popular phrase, that has so many times been used to appreciate black women and their skin, hasn’t quite yet made a mark in the beauty and entertainment industry, especially in Africa. Thanks to the huge consumption of Western culture which has led to the copying of whatever is seen, women with lighter skin in Africa have someway, somehow, become the epitome of beauty which reflects, especially in media and entertainment. The desire to attain such a look has, since the early 90s, become an African problem, as many creams – both legal and illegal – flood the markets, meeting equally high patronage. Over the years, several governments in Africa have tried to ban such products, however, new ways of getting that ‘perfect light skin’ flood the system day in and out. More recently, so-called essential oils, pills, and injections are gaining popularity in several African countries. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report, over 40% of the female population in Africa bleach while 10 per cent has thought and attempted to start the process. In 2017, the bleaching products industry was worth $17. 9 billion dollars. Quite recently, several East African countries, such as Rwanda and Kenya, made moves to eradicate the dangerous and addictive lifestyle while other countries like Congo and Nigeria have several celebrities endorsing creams and pills. Here are the countries in Africa where women risk it all to have lighter skin:
Standing tall on the number one list is Nigeria, the West African country with over 180 million people. The country not only tops Africa but tops the worldwide list with 77% of its female population practising skin bleaching. Day in and out, several socialites are making millions through the bleaching products they sell online. While others stick to creams which are cheaper, several others who can afford it are taking pills or going for cosmetic surgeries to lighten their tone. In November 2018, African-American socialite Blacc Chyna visited the country to promote a new skin bleaching cream produced in partnership with Whitenicious by Dencia.
In general, Francophone Africa is dealing with serious skin bleaching crises. A quick look on the bleaching products on the African market and one realizes that several are coming in from Togo, Cameroon, Congo, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. However, the World Health Organization report indicates that 59% of the female population in Togo are practising skin bleaching. Using traditional and harmful means, several women in Togo have contracted severe skin disorders, cancers and have even died out of the desire for a lighter skin tone.
In a country where there is much more technological advancement, it is no surprise that South Africa makes the list. The country has 35 per cent of its black women surrendering to the need for lighter skin and thus purchasing bleaching products of all kind. The country has, over the past few years, also seen a rise in the use of cosmetic surgeries to lighten their skin.
One of the top fashion secrets in Senegal is to have lighter skin to complement your character and find men crawling at your feet. Since 2015, the country has seen a rise in the number of bleaching creams that flood the market from other countries like Mali and Ivory Coast. In 2017, Senegalese cosmetic doctors appealed to the government to ban bleaching products with concerns that the number of women suffering from skin diseases related to bleaching has increased.
Mali is the 5th highest recorder of skin bleaching cases in Africa. The growing trend, although harmful, is slowly catching up with men, leaving the government very worried. The country is also known for producing illegal creams that find their way into the West African country.
Although these African countries top the list, countries such as Ghana, Ivory Coast, Congo, Kenya, and Rwanda are seeing a drastic increase in the patronage of skin bleaching creams. In the next few years, Ghana is likely to join the top 5 list.