The act of skin bleaching has been taken to a different level among both men and women. Because of the demeaning effect of the term ‘bleaching’, those who engage in the act use terms such as skin lightening, brightening, toning, whitening, among others, to cover their acts.
Skin whitening treatments are typically a lot harsher than those meant for brightening or lightening the skin. The whitening technique uses some kind of harsh bleach to strip all or most of the pigment off the skin.
This irritates the skin and can even cause portions of the skin to be discoloured.
As if the rebranding of the term is not enough, people who engage in intensive skin bleaching have moved from just smearing their bodies with soap, creams and lotions containing hydroquinone for a long period of time to the fast-track usage of pills, syrups, luxurious milk, oils, injectables and white creams, as they call it.
It is believed that those who use cheap bleaching techniques end up with dark spots around the knees, elbows, ears, palms, knuckles, armpits and the genital areas.
Interestingly, market for the syrups, pills and high grade creams seems to be booming on social media and you have most of the young women making enquiries on how to use them and where to get them to buy.
A US-based Ghanaian academic, Dr Yaba Blay, said in a recent article that skin bleaching “has reached pandemic proportions”.
In recent times, some well-known Ghanaian movie actors/actresses and musicians came in for severe bashing on the airwaves for the swift change of their skin colour.
Currently, Bukom Banku seems to be topping the chat of skin bleachers, as his seems to be very appalling.
It is not surprising that showbiz personalities have been known to bleach.
Many scholars argue that as a result of European colonialism, the Western construct of beauty is dominant and for some African societies a lighter skin is preferred to a darker one.
From a 2009 study, Ghanaian researcher Konadu Fokuo noted: “Many Ghanaian women’s feelings about beauty, attractiveness and the marriage market are associated with skin complexion” as “they believe that Ghanaian men found lighter-skinned women more attractive.”
some men also believe they are more handsome if they are light-skinned.
Products trending on social media
Some of the advertisements indicate that there are creams for different parts of the body.
But they do not come cheap.
For instance, there are creams that can make your lips turn pink, known as the Pink Lips Balm.
There are also Stretch Marks Cream, Super Hand and Leg Cream for dark knuckles and toes, Exfoliators, Intensive Scrubs, Indian White Creams, among others.
Another fast-moving product that people are patronising is Egyptian Milk or Kamana.
The Mirror investigations show that this is luxurious milk specially prepared for an extreme whitening touch and also eradicates pigmentations.
The main ingredient that is found in these skin whitening pills is glutathione, an antioxidant in plants, animals, fungi and some bacteria and archaean.
Another ingredient is kojic acid which functions primarily as a skin-lightening agent as well.
A capsule which is also gaining popularity is the Ivory capsule. This product offers the strongest dose of glutathione for quicker results and also maximum benefits that are derived from skin whitening.
The capsule is sold between GH¢280 and GH¢650 and usually comes in a pack of 60 capsules to last for a month.
Also on the market currently are skin bleaching supplements.
Speaking on some of the products, Dr Larvern Mintah, a dermatologist based in the USA, said some ingredients that were used to make the skin lightening pills might cause symptoms such as insomnia, vomiting, indigestion, headaches, among others, thereby causing body weakness.
Dr Mintah explained that the constant taking of those pills, might be very harmful and cause liver damage.
“The liver of a person consuming a pill can be damaged due to the possibility of the organ overworking itself,” she explained.
“Most of this skin whitening pills are made of a component called hydroquinone that contains a carcinogenic ingredient that can cause cancer. The product is banned in most of the European Union countries, as well as the US, due to the research studies that show this,” she emphasised.
She said some of the side effects were severe allergic reactions due to certain ingredients that were used to manufacture the pills.
Some body parts might develop swelling and skin rashes.
“Besides, these products cause interruption of the normal skin functions. Some ingredients have the capability of also affecting the body’s hormone levels,” she pointed out.