Who is beautiful? The word ‘Beautiful’ could mean anything to anyone.The black skin is beautiful to many but not to everyone. For some it’s their pride, for many, it’s a nightmare, if only they can tone it a little…..just too dark they say. This stems from the misconception that the black skin is inferior, ugly and the light skin is beautiful. Self-concept is affected, self-esteem is low and self-confidence is poor. The need to make up for all these sets in and it seems it’s not just enough.

I don’t know if it is the society who defines what a beautiful skin is, whether subtly or in obvious ways. But there seems to be this crazy drive to have the light skin color at all cost. They do not care about the adverse effect of these products which ranges from blood cancers like leukemia, liver cancer, cancer of the kidney and chronic skin disease. Unfortunately, the adverse effect is not given a thought as long as they have light skin. 

What has become worrisome and alarming is the innocent baby’s who have found themselves in this enormous depravity –an act wrong in all forms and has no justification. This innocent baby’s skin bleached with bleaching products or topical corticosteroid creams like Funbact-A, exposing them to serious side effects that can affect their health and also claim their lives. You find mothers engaging in harmful practices like mixing Funbact-A, ampicillin, tetracycline, in their baby’s cream. The crazy thing about this is that “anti-fungal”, “anti-bacterial” and “anti-inflammatory” are boldly written on these products but the intense need to be light skin drives them to throw all cautions into the wind. They want a light skin baby at all costs, at the detriment of their baby’s health. The World health organization in 2015 reported that Nigerians are the highest users of bleaching products, about 77% of Nigerian women use these products regularly. 

Skin bleaching is the use of products to lighten the skin to achieve an overall lighter complexion. The products used for bleaching range from creams, soaps, pills, injectables, professional treatments like laser therapy. Bleaching substances work by reducing the concentration of melanin in the skin. Melanin is produced from melanocytes and it is the pigment that protects and gives the skin its color. The amount of melanin in the skin is majorly determined by genetics. Dark skin people have more melanin than light skin people. Other factors that can affect the production of melanin are hormones, sunlight, and certain chemicals. For some people, skin bleachers are used as treatment options for reducing dark spots and reducing acne scars’ appearance. For many, it is used just to bleach the skin. 

There is no health benefit of skin bleaching; most skin bleaching products contain mercury, hydroquinone, highly potent corticosteroid ointments and creams such as fluocinonide, betamethasone valerate, and clobetasol propionate. This ingredient has increased over the years because some manufacturers have introduced new chemicals of unknown safety-such as niacinamide, oxybenzone, and triethanolamine and this is to frustrate the efforts of government regulatory agencies. Most of these ingredients have dermatological and systemic potential side effects. Mercury for example can cause serious psychiatric, neurological and kidney problems but the most worrisome is the potent corticosteroids these products contain. 

Corticosteroids are drugs that reduce inflammation and also weaken the immune system. They can be used as treatment options for asthma, arthritis, allergies, autoimmune disorders, etc. they help to ease swelling, allergic reaction, itching and so on. Corticosteroids usage can be localized or systemic. Topical corticosteroids are used for treating skin conditions such as eczema, rash, dermatitis, and pruritus. The usage is localized; the part of the body and the skin type to be treated is put into consideration to determine the potency of topical steroids needed. It is not a cosmetic product.

However long term use as used by bleachers can cause serious health risks like skin cells deterioration, atopic dermatitis, infection, skin atrophy, telangiectasia, hypopigmentation, hypertrichosis, pustular eruptions, cataract, and glaucoma. Children and babies are at more risk due to their high body surface area to their weight ratio and their thinner skin. Prolonged and continuous usage can be sufficient enough for systemic absorption and this can cause reduced linear growth in children, corticosteroid-dependent rash, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis suppression which is rare. For adults, it can cause a reduction in bone density leading to osteoporosis.

With all the listed side effects above, do the benefits outweigh the risk? Definitely no! Why acquire superficial skin color just to conform to “societal” definition of beauty and end up with chronic lifelong diseases and conditions. Bleaching one’s skin doesn’t change who a person is, skin color doesn’t define beautiful. The light skin acquired is surreal, a black person is still black whether the skin is bleached or not. Self-acceptance and self-love are everything; he who has ears let him hear.