Yusuf Hassan Wada writes from UDUTH
A worrying trend which seems to be gaining normalcy in Nigeria today is skin bleaching, also called lightening or whitening, particularly in teenagers and young adults. Even children are being bleached by their parents, and this is repugnant to say the least. To simply put, skin-bleaching is the use of chemicals to lighten one’s skin. Not only the over-the-counter creams or gels as used long ago but now pills and injectables are the new trend on the rise.

In many parts of Nigeria, being light-skinned is a sign of beauty, superiority and socio-economic status. People from all walks of life and social classes are involved, from high class through to low class and from the educated through to the completely illiterate. Women are the most guilty, but men cannot be left out of the picture as they have also joined the race.

Skin bleaching and use of skin lightening products was once illegal in Nigeria. But, Nigeria now has the highest percentage of women who use skin lightening products in the world. It is estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) that 77% of Nigerian women, 59% of Togolese women, 35% of South African women, 30% of Ghana women and 25% of Malian women use bleaching products on a regular basis. Why did we lose our way on the pathway of history? An extended form of slavery, actually? The answer to this question is our collective sorrowful failure.

For bleaching to work, as soon as you start, you must avoid the sun like a plague but who can do that. It involves the removal of the outer layer of the skin and exposes the second layer. The skin thus appears softer, smoother and fairer. That was the myth, period. Because of this a lot of women are beginning to resort to skin lighteners to lighten their skin tone without outweighing the long term consequences.

With the advent of this skin lightening, the effects of some bleaching agents go beyond melanin: they go systemic, affecting other organs, with severe complications. Skin cancers are rare among blacks because of the protection from the black (melanin) pigment. But this products have become the main triggers of not only skin cancer but also thought to be triggers for other cancers, like cancers of the blood (leukaemia), kidneys and liver.

To buttress this hypothesis, most skin-bleaching chemicals contain toxic chemicals ingredients, including mercury, glutathione (taken as injections or pills), hydroquinone and some steroids such as cortisone and clobetasol as the main active ingredient or in combination.
Nowadays, most skin-lightening potions make use of hydroquinone. Hydroquinone prevents the skin from forming the substance responsible for skin color. In concentrations of 2% or less, it is reportedly safe for short-term use but now many creams have concentration of higher than 4%. Some companies declare 2% on the packaging but it’s much higher than the said content. It lightens the skin initially, for up to six months, and then the process begins to reverse itself. This chemical begins to attack the layers of skin below the surface, causing permanent damage to the tissues. Consequently, the skin starts to darken and may end up looking like Blue Black. In some cases Green.
Also, mercury is a very poisonous substance which is known to cause neurological defects and kidney damage. Products with mercury ingredients have also been banned in many countries across the world. Intravenous injections and pills of glutathione, an antioxidant naturally found in the body that has a lightening side effect are the new frontiers of skin bleaching.
Bleaching creams were brought by the white people who wanted to make a lot of money, at the expense of our health, an extended form of slavery? Most of these companies are banned from producing creams and chemicals with high levels of hydroquinone and mercury (the chemicals responsible for suppressing melanin) in Europe and other part of the world. These companies also use light skinned women with phrases like skin toning, skin lightening and skin smoothening at expense of portraying them as more beautiful and preferred by men.
To change your skin colour is to betray your maker and your faith. For in the realms of religion there must be no room for vanity. Bleaching is most certainly not pleasing in the eyes of the Lord.
We have a duty and responsibility to defend and protect ourselves against being made the pawns and prey of the self-seeking agenda of others. We have been victims of discrimination enough.

The government through the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has the unique responsibility of checkmating this trend by banning such products from entering the country.

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