Only after consultation with a dermatologist, because they are skilled enough to prescribe the right product and guide usage patterns, should a skin lightening cream be used. Skin lightening creams are ideally used to even out skin tones and rectify issues caused by skin diseases/issues that lead to skin discoloration. For example, dark spots following a bout of acne or skin trauma (this is called hyper-pigmentation). The point is to apply the cream on spots that are visibly darker than others in order to make your skin color match all round. And to use such creams only for a short period of time.
But unintended uses of the skin whitening creams persist.
Interestingly, skin lightening is a very controversial topic. You will be hard pressed to find any articles taking a position for skin lightening. But make a stop at beauty stores in Nigeria and you are more likely than not to pick a skin lightening (slash toning) cream. You literally have to read the labels carefully to avoid one. We would have thought that the other way around was the case, but not so.
So why, despite the controversy and the many articles about bleaching gone wrong, is there still such a big market for skin lightening?!
We’ve heard two responses on repeat from Nigerian women: (a) people treat you differently (better) when your skin is white (2) you feel prettier.
“In many parts of Africa, lighter-skinned women are considered more beautiful and are believed to be more successful and likely to find marriage.”~ Al Jazeera
According to Al Jazeera, 77% of global women using skin lightening creams in the ‘quest for beauty’ are from Nigeria. Mind blown at this figure! Our first reaction is to reject it, but then we remember what a cross section of body creams in Nigerian beauty stores and markets look like. It’s possible.
It’s unfortunate that ideals of beauty first relate to skin color – the lighter the better. This interesting and detailed expose on skin lightening by Marie Claire magazine shows that it’s not just a Nigerian problem, it’s a black problem.
This is why it’s so important to continue to validate the message that Black is Beautiful. Images like those shown here by photographer, Shawn Theodore in his Future Antebellum series, show us a glimpse of a future where melanin is celebrated, and indeed, coveted.
But what are the experiences when you step out in real life? Like former Jamaican bleacher Carr says (in broken English) in the Marie Claire skin whitening article “Black is beautiful, but people make you feel a way…”.
We need more mainstream validation about the beauty of black skin in the media, and we need to follow this up with a change in attitude of the people on the street. This is a long-term endeavour, but it’s possible. What has your experience been with skin lightening? Please share!