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Colorism, skin bleaching, its dire consequences



Dr Zema Suleiman MD


By Zainab Suleiman, MD.

Judging or discrimination against people based on their skin color has been an aged long practice across the world. It’s a menace present everywhere; From Europe to America to Africa, et al.
In Nigeria, as a case study, fair-complexioned men and women find themselves referred to as “Oyinbo”, that is, light-skinned individuals. These set of people often tell stories about their ordeals which are in two folds; First, they’re being cheered as fascinating and alluring., and on the other hand, they’re subjected to platitudes and abusive remarks.

Colorism is, indeed a complicated issue. In some parts of Asia, it is even said that the choice and liking for fair-skin presage European forceful control and truly, it’s seen as far as Japan, India and other countries. These are issues that predated the birth of Jesus Christ.

Back to Africa, colorism is occasionally visibly glaring among colored communities in countries like South Africa. From hair texture to one’s facial shape and features.

These are what have caused the birth and consciousness about skin color, hence people being influenced in multiple ways to have their skin colors changed. A phenomenal issue which gave rise to skin bleaching and toning.

Mysteries and intrigues of absurd concepts and practice are what can be used to describe Nigeria when it comes to their dermatological practice of skin bleaching and toning.
Skin bleaching is considered an aged long practice here and acquiring a lighter skin has been the worry of innumerable number of dark skinned people.

In Nigeria, bleaching and colorism have been long – standing practice that have been aimed at changing one’s skin color and over the years, it has become a socially acceptable habitude. Such practice is common among women and men of all ages. This is done through the use of chemical products which mainly compose of chemical materials like hydroquinone, mercurials and corticosteroids.

It is evidently proven that Nigerians, especially the female folks attach much passion to beauty than other aspects of life. Unhealthy herbs, soaps, and toxic chemicals are being used to give them a face lift. In the unsafe process of bleaching, the skin loses its natural color which is composed of melanin, the body pigment and give way to a fairer complexion. One intention of those who indulge in such practice is that, being beautiful is associated with fair skin. A wrong notion that has driven countless people into the mania of skin bleaching and toning without careful thought about the dire consequences that such practice can expose them to.

In the big suburbs and cities of Nigeria like Lagos, Kano, Ibadan et al, skin bleaching creams have formed a major market, in fact a permanent home. It has become a major market that adequately caters for different social classes or status. With products prices ranging from as cheap as #3000 to a neck – breaking prices of almost #200,000. With statistics studied, it’s quite alarming that a large percentage of people are consumers of these products, thus a huge amount is daily made in the business but it is also pertinent to educate the public on the issue of bleaching, toning and colorism and the repercussions of the skin bleaching procedures.

One of the consequences of this detestable practice is the loss of the upper layer layers of cells of the skin, which makes the skill relatively thinner, and this means a significant loss of the protective skin layer called the stratum corneum. Since this skin layer, which is selectively permeable to water and toxic materials like chemicals and other toxic agents are peeled off, then one is liable to suffer some infections. This also goes a long way to weaken the mechanical strength of the skin and one is exposed to lots of mechanical skin traumas. A skin that has been mechanically assaulted with lots of chemicals like hydroquinone are prone to serial attack of health complications.

Another effect of bleaching is that once the underlying layer of the skin is exposed and becomes so thin, the ability of the skin to perform its homeostatic function becomes compromised. It will become so difficult for the skin to conserve heat as it ought to, owing to the fact that the skin has lost the parts that accounts for its thickness.

It should be noted that a fragile skin is not just only prone to trauma, but also susceptible to invasions that are deeper structures of the skin, such a fresh insect bites. This will definitely make it very easy for infections like pathogens to gain entry to the body through the skin.

Moreover, many of the over-the-counter bleaching products increase the risk of cancer and organ damage, such as the liver and kidney. They should be totally avoided. One of the severe disorders that arise from skin bleaching is a medical condition known as Nephrotic disorder. It is a kidney disease that is often caused by a damage to the blood vessels in one’s kidney. Since the kidney is an organ responsible for filtering excess water and waste, once it’s affected, then the body excretes too much protein in one’s urine.

Skin bleaching or toning creams have been found to contain a large amount of mercury, which in turn is associated with Nephrotic syndrome.

In summary, skin bleaching has no health benefits. Rather, it causes serious defects as side effects. And if one is considering skin lightening, one must first see a physician or a skin care expert called dermatologist for guide on the risks. And contentment, they say is the key to joy. One must appreciate his or her skin and live healthy with it.

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