Eliminating Color & Peeling Away Self-Value

What skin bleaching looks like

Imagine walking down a store aisle and being confronted with products claiming to bleach skin! Which is exactly what I encountered one day. Whatever you want to call it, skin bleaching, skin whitening, skin lightening, I never realized how widespread this dangerous practice is.

I am a proud Nigerian-American Black woman who makes it a point to encourage people of all ethnicities to value who and what they are. So I was especially appalled and disappointed to see so many skin whitening products for sale on shelf after shelf in a store in Lagos, Nigeria … a Black African country, for goodness sake.

I find such products, which essentially equate whiteness with better, to be condescending, ignorant and offensive.

With so many shelves devoted to these products, obviously there is a demand for them. According to one World Health Organization report, skin bleaching is a multi-billion dollar global industry. What a shame. Stratistics Market Research Consulting predicts that the global market for skin lightening products is expected to reach $8,011 million by 2026. Other researchers have projected figures to reach as high as $8,895 million by 2024.

Certain skin conditions may require the use of medications to treat localized discoloration of the skin. This article is not about that. It’s about the use of products to lighten naturally darker skin so that it resembles some perceived whiter, preferred ideal.

Skin bleaching, whitening, lightening, brightening (or whatever they choose to call it), remains a big problem globally. In Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, North and South America, Middle East, and Africa, women, and an increasing number of men use these products. They bleach face, hands, arms, neck, legs and sometimes the entire body.

Striving to be, or to look like what they are not, comes at a cost

Bleached skin not only looks unnatural, but it can often be permanently damaged (scars, burns, splotchy patches, etc.). Bleaching products contain toxic, dangerous ingredients including mercury and hydroquinone which can cause liver and kidney damage, cancer and the destruction of melanocytes (the cells that produce melanin responsible for pigment and provide a measure of protection from the sun’s skin damaging ultra violet rays). Some people even go as far as to take tablets and injections and more recently, infusions of glutathione, to achieve lighter skin. 

I, for one, am glad to know that several African countries have banned the importation of most, and in some cases all skin bleaching products. Some of these countries are South Africa, Kenya, Cote d’ Ivoire, Ghana, Tanzania and Rwanda. Although banned, enforcement is difficult in light of the fact that the demand is still so high that smugglers continue to have a robust business dealing in these products. 

If you are bleaching your skin, or even thinking about starting to to do it, I would ask you, Why? Why would you do this to yourself?

More importantly, I would ask you, what does this say about self-value? About what you think of yourself? About the essence of who you are?

Have you been taught, or have you bought into the false idea that everything white is better?

Do you value what you are not, more than you value who you are?

It all comes down to value. This is very serious. Valuing who you are includes valuing your natural self (ethnic, racial, genetic). Valuing yourself first is an absolute must.

If you think that by bleaching your skin you will attract a man (or woman) to marry you, or that you will get a better job, or that you will increase your status in life, please consider this.

If a man is marrying you because you are lighter in complexion, then he is a superficial person and you do not need that kind of a husband.

If a company is hiring you because your skin is lighter, then you need to question the values of that company. Do not compromise who and what you are because of a job. You don’t need that kind of an employer.

As for increasing your social standing, don’t believe the lie. Everybody will know what you are doing to yourself anyway. You’re not fooling anybody. And people don’t respect people who don’t respect or value themselves. Never forget that. Value yourself first, and you will find that others will value you too.


Mary Oluonye.

I am a writer and entrepreneur and my goal is to inspire self-value, promote Africa, and help people achieve their goals. 

I am deeply committed to inspiring my people to better respect and value who we are as Africans & People of African Descent.