According to the 2005 Ghana Health service report, approximately 30% of Ghanaian women and 5% of Ghanaian men were actively bleaching. This statistic has shot-up, and currently 50%- 60% of adult Ghanaian women are currently or have at one time or the other actively used bleaching agents.
The incidence of skin bleaching – the intentional alteration of one’s natural skin color to one relatively, if not substantially, lighter in color, through the use of chemical skin lightening agents, either manufactured, homemade, or any combination of the two – has been well documented in Africa. In some parts of the continent, bleaching is nothing less than a way of life. An estimated:
- Seventy five percent of traders in Lagos, Nigeria (2002)
- 52% of the population in Dakar, Senegal, 35% in Pretoria, South Africa (2004)
- 50% of the female population in Bamako, Mali (2000)
- 8 out of 10 seemingly light-skinned women in Cote d’Ivoire (1998)
- 60% of Zambian women ages 30 – 39 (2005)
- 50 -60% of adult Ghanaian women
The World Health Organization defines bleaching as the intentional alteration of one’s natural skin colour to one relatively if not substantially, lighter in colour, through the use of chemical skin lighting agents, either manufactured, homemade, or the combination of the two.
There has been proliferation of wide array of bleaching products or creams on our Ghanaian market bearing names such as skin toners, carrot light, skin light, lightening shampoo and other steroid soaps with enticing advertisement featuring celebrities with the aim of attracting gullible Ghanaian women. Many Ghanaians patronize these creams oblivious of their harmful effects.
The greatest victim of skin bleaching was the late Pop star, Michael Jackson who met his premature and untimely death. Reports indicated that the Pop star had the upper layer of his skin peeled off, destroying his skin ability to produce menalin that protects the skin against ultra-violent rays and exposes the skin to blood cancer such as leukemia and cancer of the liver and kidney.
Ghanaian boxer Percy Oblitei Commey also suffered the same fate when he lost his national super-featherweight belt to his challenger Smith Odoom in 2001. International report indicated the boxer suffered several punches on his face, opening deep cut on his right cheek, and his nostril bleeding with blood because his skin was too light due to excessive bleaching.
Wema Sepetu is a Tanzanian beauty contestant who won the Miss Tanzania contest in 2006
It is not uncommon to see many Ghanaian women including some men who have lost their natural skin colour and have exposed their bodies to deformities such as burnt skin, wrinkles, skin blemishes, damaged skin and red spots on skin which is normally referred in our local parlance as ‘Nanso Obaa yi’.
Nigerian and Cameroonian pop star Denicia of Whitenicious
The devastating effect of skin bleaching leaves a lot to be desired and ought to be abhorred rather than encouraged in our Ghanaian society.