Skin bleaching has exploded across countries in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean, where dark skin is seen as ugly.
Recently, a study by the University of Cape Town found that over a third of women (35%) in South Africa bleaches their skin, and most of them have admitted that they do it because they want “white skin.”
The World Health Organization has reported that Nigerians are the highest users of such products: 77% of Nigerian women use the products on a regular basis. They are followed by Togo with 59%; South Africa with 35%; and Mali at 25%.
Skin lightening do come at a high cost for people that do bleach themselves. Legal and illegal skin bleaching creams can cause blood and skin cancers and many dermatologists across the African continent have reported seeing increasing numbers of skin damage such as burns, skin and ochronosis, which can cause the skin to turn a dark purplish color.
Dr Noora Moti-Joosub from South Africa told the BBC: “I’m getting patients from all over Africa needing help with treating their ochronosis. There is very little we can do to reverse the damage and yet people are still in denial about the side-effects of these products.”
A Local musician in South Africa Nomasonto “Mshoza” Mnisi, that is now several shades lighter, says that her new white skin makes her feel more beautiful and confident.
The Local musician Nomasonto “Mshoza” Mnisi has been criticised in the local media and on social networking sites for bleaching her skin, but she says that skin-bleaching is a personal choice, no different from breast implants or a having nose job.
“I’ve been black and dark-skinned for many years, I wanted to see the other side. I wanted to see what it would be like to be white and I’m happy,” she says.
But skin-lightening is not only done by women, a Congolese hair stylist Jackson Marcelle says he has been bleaching his skin for the past 10 years.”I pray every day and I ask God, ‘God why did you make me black?’ I don’t like being black. I don’t like black skin,” he says.
Mr Marcelle – is known as Africa’s Michael Jackson – he says his mother used to bleach his skin when he was young in order to make him appear “less black”.”I like white people. Black people are seen as dangerous; that’s why I don’t like being black. People treat me better now because I look like I’m white,” he adds.
Dermatologist in Dakar, Senegal with pictures of patients whose skin was damaged by lightening treatments.