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High use of lightening creams in Nigeria

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By Abraham Adekunle

Women spent $8.6 billion on skin lightening products annually.

The skincare industry is growing all over the world. However, in a quest to enhance their beauty, women have spent a whooping $8.6 billion annually on skin lightening products. Since 2018, Nigeria has been the world’s largest consumer of skin bleaching or lightening products. The World Health Organization (WHO) has earlier held that the use of skin lightening products is prevalent among African women, with Nigeria leading at 77 percent above other nations. A survey carried out by the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has confirmed the long-held position.

Mojisola Adeyeye, Director-General of NAFDAC, said at a workshop for health journalists in Port Harcourt that Togo, a neighboring West African country, follows Nigeria with 59 percent in the use of skin bleaching products. This is followed by South Africa with 35 percent and Senegal with 27 percent. Over all, the West African region leads the world chart in the use of these products with an average of 49.5 percent in use. This is not an impossible reality as the standard of beauty in these African countries are somewhat of a fantasy.

The fairer women’s skin complexion, the more beautiful they are.

Currently the fantasy of light skin as the high point of beauty is a matter of self-esteem for women of color around the world. In many cultures of the world, skin color is a social standard that is regularly used by people of color as well as Hispanics in lieu of race. Many believe that attractiveness, marriageability, career opportunities and socioeconomic status are directly connected and proportional to skin color. In Nigeria, skin complexion is used to categorized people, with darker shades seen as less beautiful and fairer shades seen as more beautiful and desirable.

As a result of this standard, many women seek chemical remedies to lighten their complexion. This has created a booming global business in bleaching creams and injectables, which is valued at $8.6 billion as of 2020. It has been revealed that in the United States alone, $2.3 billion was spent. The global market for skin bleaching creams is projected to reach $12.3 billion by 2027. In a way, this industry is also part of the body augmentation industry which includes BBL, liposuction, and more.

Skin lightening products have severe health risks.

At the workshop, Adeyeye told the media professionals about the dangers of “bleaching cream.” She said that the statistics show the prevalence of bleaching cream use in Nigeria has become a “national emergency” and a call for concern. The NAFDAC boss, who was represented by the director of chemical evaluation and research, warned that the harmful effects of bleaching cream include damage to vital body organs, cancer, prolonged healing (in the case of being injured), among other risks.

WHO has also said that bleaching has life-threatening side effects such as skin cancer, liver damage and kidney failure, regardless of the benefits that the users claim to have derived from it. Apart from these long-term effects and risks, bleaching also has some effects on the body. It gives the skin different shades of color such that they do not rhyme. The skin also becomes so fragile that it is susceptible to injuries at the slightest contact.

NAFDAC will crack down on bleaching products nationwide.

Meanwhile, NAFDAC has said that it will embark on nationwide regulatory actions aimed at “Stemming the use of bleaching creams and cosmetics that are harmful and injurious to the body.” These measures include sensitization of the public through the media on the dangers of the use of the products, enforcement and raids of distribution outlets accompanied with seizures and destruction of violating products. The government agency said it is consolidating a system to train people in all the zones in the country as a deliberate strategy of mobilizing, educating, sensitizing Nigeria’s health journalists to play a frontal role in a concerted effort to eradicate the menace.

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