Dying to be white

Dying to Be White- the struggle for ‘true’ beauty

November 4, 2020

“Dying to be white? Yes, I am because black is not beautiful” Sope said as she wiped the dust off the surface of a skin lightening cream she just picked off the store’s shelf. “Don’t be deceived. If black was beautiful, most of our Nigerian celebrities would not resort to bleaching their skin. Everyone loves a fair lady. Sope turned to look at my face hoping for a reaction, I was expressionless of course. She chuckled, then continued “Look Dami, I don’t need you to believe me and you can go on deceiving yourself but that’s just the sad truth”

Series of thoughts ran through my mind. Maybe she was right. Maybe it is the sad truth and I’m just too afraid to face reality that me, a dark woman is unattractive. I have followed posts of activists who are forerunners of the “Black is beautiful campaign” and most of them are fair. Okay, how am I just noticing this? It probably isn’t a bad idea to buy one, what’s the worst that could happen, right? I know people say skin bleaching is bad, you would regret it… blah blah, but I’ve also seen many people who bleached and are living a wonderful healthy life. I couldn’t decide if I wanted one or not. The dilemma was killing me.

It is not uncommon to see Nigerian women with such mentality like Sope’s who believe that a fair skin is a gateway to beauty. Some of these women are quite aware of the side effects but are so obsessed with being fair they choose not to care. Others aren’t aware, and because of these others, I have listed some risks associated with using bleaching creams they should know.

Risks Associated with Skin Lightening Creams

There are several risks associated with skin lightening creams. Some of which are;

Exogenous ochronosis

A woman with exogenous ochronosis

This is a very common skin issue associated with skin lightening creams amongst dark women. Exogenous ochronosis (EO) is a skin disorder known by its blue-black pigmentation which occurs as a result of complications arising from the long-term application of skin-lightening creams containing hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is one of the major ingredients contained in most bleaching creams.

Hydroquinone works by decreasing the production and increasing the breakdown of melanosomes in melanocytes. It does this by inhibiting the activity of tyrosinase, the enzyme needed to make melanin. This makes the skin sensitive to sunlight which can cause several skin disorders. Although, hydroquinone is not only the cause of this disorder, it is a leading cause and trust me, it is not a pretty sight to behold.

Mercury Poisoning

High blood pressure as a result of mercury poisoning

They have linked some skin bleaching creams to mercury toxicity. They have banned mercury as an ingredient in skin lightening products in the United States, but products made in other countries still contain mercury. When the producers have no place to sell their products because of the ban, African countries become their dumping ground. Some over-the-counter bleaching creams contain mercury which is extremely harmful.

According to healthline some of the signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning include:

  • Numbness
  • high blood pressure
  • fatigue
  • kidney failure

Steroid acne

Skin bleaching creams that contain corticosteroids can cause steroid acne which mostly affects the chest, but can also show up on the back, arms, and other parts of the body with long-term use of such creams. Symptoms can include:

  • whiteheads and blackheads
  • small red bumps
  • large, painful red lumps
  • acne scars

Im pretty sure dying to be white is really not worth the acne issues you would have to deal with, is it?

Nephrotic syndrome

Swollen feet and ankle as a symptom of nephrotic syndrome

Nephrotic syndrome is a kidney disorder often caused by damage to the blood vessels in the kidneys responsible for filtering waste and excess water. It causes the body to excrete too much protein in the urine. Studies have associated skin lightening creams containing mercury with nephrotic syndrome.

Symptoms can include:

  • swelling (edema) around the eyes
  • swollen feet and ankles
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue


Picture symbolizing hypertension

Glucocorticosteroid induced arterial hypertension occurs after abusive use of a skin bleaching cream. Glucocorticosteroids exert their effect at many sites involved in blood pressure regulation: in particular at the level of the kidney, blood vessels, and the heart. The exact incidence of arterial hypertension after prolonged cutaneous glucocorticosteroid administration is however unknown, but it is much safer to prevent this. Better safe than sorry, right?

The Takeaway

All in all, the bone of contention after reading this is that overusing skin-bleaching products can cause irreversible damage, and the skin might not return to its original condition even after bleaching has stopped. Bleaching products strip the skin of melanin, which makes it more sensitive to the sun, meaning you need to cover up with clothing and not just sun protection, otherwise you increase your risk of skin cancer.

Oh by the way, at the store, I didn’t buy the cream and even though I almost did, I’m glad I realized that society doesn’t get to dictate what is beautiful or not. What really mattered most was self-acceptance which I gave myself. Also, Sope, she stopped using skin lightening creams. No, it’s not what you’re thinking. She’s fine, but that’s just luck, you might not be so lucky. It took several attempts to dissuade her, but not without her realizing her self-worth. Even though she’s now darker than she used to be before she started using the creams, I have never seen her more confident and beautiful. I mean, years ago this same woman was dying to be white.

Ladies, this is the best skin routine care you can ever give yourself. It is not only safe but also cost effective. It is so much better than dying to be white.

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