Natural African beauty

The Miss Authentica Beauty Competition, held recently in Cote D’Ivoire. The idea behind the pageant was to showcase and encourage appreciation of the beauty of natural, non-bleached black African skin.
It seems a great cause, especially given that many of the skin-lightening products used on the African continent are apparently carcinogenic.
Get the Facts
Dermatology Unit, Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, Lagos, Nigeria.

Skin lightening (bleaching) cosmetics and toiletries are widely used in most African countries. The active ingredients in these cosmetic products are hydroquinone, mercury and corticosteroids. Several additives (conconctions) are used to enhance the bleaching effect. Since these products are used for long duration, on a large body surface area, and under hot humid conditions, percutaneous absorption is enhanced.

The complications of these products are very serious and are sometimes fatal. Some of these complications are exogenous ochronosis, impaired wound healing and wound dehiscence, the fish odor syndrome, nephropathy, steroid addiction syndrome, predisposition to infections, a broad spectrum of cutaneous and endocrinologic complications of corticosteroids, including suppression of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

Consumers in the developed world enjoy the benefits of stringent legislation governing the production and sale of over-the-counter cosmoceuticals and skin care products. Such legislation in Africa would have spared our people from the dangers of the false concept of “skin bleaching,” which has destroyed many who have gone to great lengths to have a lighter skin color. Dark skinned individuals have been made to feel that their skin color is not only less attractive but that lighter or white skin is necessary for a better status in life.

Many believe that job opportunities, power, success, influence, and superiority is the preserve of white skinned people, whereas dark skinned individuals are condemned to a lower lot in life. These ideas perhaps were created by the colonial past but more distressingly are carried on and perpetuated by unscrupulous stake holders who cash in by trading in products they claim to satisfy the desire to lighten skin color.

The print and electronic media and billboards in Africa, until recently, portrayed white people in commercials of all kinds of commodities, giving the impression that dark people were not good enough to be photographed for such advertisements. Color cosmetics to suit dark skin were nonexistent till a few years ago. Africans, like many other dark races, have thereby been driven to the craving for white skin. The concept of “skin bleaching” thus emanated, was expanded upon and passed down to two or more generations. Unethical traders cashed in on this by producing substances they deceitfully claim to give one a lighter skin color.

The cosmetic and cosmoceutical market in Africa was flooded with products containing mercury, hydroquinone, corticosteroids, hydrogen peroxide and many unknown dangerous substances. Some products were produced locally but more pathetically many were dumped here from foreign western countries where such products were not passed for use in their country of origin. Homemade concoctions of toxic substances were sold locally and exported to neighboring African countries. Adulteration of branded products was another practice which strengthened the black market trade. Back street sale of prescription products like topical corticosteroids and dispensing of such items without prescription, were opportunities for some to make a quick buck from naive and desperate people.

Consumer awareness, by way of seminars and the media, is important in eradicating the practice. This has been my personal campaign for several years. This bore fruit when finally the Kenya government on May 11, 2001 banned the sale of skin bleaching products. Although some products still find their way into the market, a positive effect has been registered. Many victims who fell easy prey to this absurdity come for treatment, whilst others get medical advice on all cosmetics to be used.

Neighboring countries are also in the process of legislating on such issues whilst some countries have introduced fines and penalties for those selling or using skin bleaching preparations.

Part of our education campaign is the recognition that dark skin is beautiful and that it is impossible to change skin color. We warn people that the use of the so called skin bleaching creams, lotions, and ointments can cause skin destruction, systemic and organ failure and death. Continuous consumer education and law enforcement should be maintained. Dermatologists have a key role in ensuring that safe and good products are used. Skin Bleaching should be condemned.

The future of the world is Africa

The African Business Weblog is dedicated to contributing to the learning environment, diversity and global opportunities in African business, investing, media, internet marketing, workshops, conferences, stock markets, venture capital, tourism, blogs, web 2.0, africa SEO and other innovative business strategies for Africa.

  1. Pablo (yo)
    September 7, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Great blog!!If you like, come back and visit mine: http://albumdeestampillas.blogspot.comThanks,Pablo from Argentina

  2. African Blog
    September 23, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Glad you like it, thanks for your comments.

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