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06.08.2004 Health

The Dangers of Skin Bleaching

By Chronicle

DESPITE THE ban on the sale of skin bleaching creams on the Ghanaian markets, it appears it is not being obeyed and the products are easily available for anyone interested to buy as many as one wants.

The ban on skin bleaching creams was meant to discourage our women from the harmful practice of trying to change their naturally beautiful skins which God, in his Wisdom, had infused with dark pigmentation as a protection from harmful ultra-violet rays from the sun.

Our dark skins thus are protective shields which we must cherish and love, not to use toxic things to change simply because it is the fashionable thing to do.

But why do our women try to lighten their skins? The reason goes deep into our psyche as dark-skinned African people who have, over the years, been brainwashed to see ourselves as inferior people because of our colour. Beauty is illogically portrayed as being the exclusive preserve of light-skinned Caucasian or approximates of that model.

Somehow, we have convinced ourselves that the lighter the colour, the more beautiful the person, when in actual fact, light skins are only the natural response of nature to the low levels of sunlight in the temperate regions of the world.

However, historical factors can account for this dangerous and unhealthy perception we have of ourselves as dark-skinned people. Our desire to change our skin colour can only be explained by our feeling of low esteem which is a direct result of our colonial experiences.

Indeed, it goes further back to the days of the Atlantic Slave Trade when we were made to feel inferior to the lighter-skinned Europeans.

We have so far not used the words 'black' and 'white' to describe people because nobody is either black nor white. Language has been one of the cultural tools used to demean us as a people and we at The Chronicle believe the time has come for us to embark on education of our people to put them in the proper spiritual frame of mind for the true development we all aspire to.

The history of the skin bleaching creams is instructive. They were first pushed on the market in the United States of African-American women who were encouraged to keep their skins lightened in an effort to emulate the Caucasian woman, who was put on a pedestal as the ultimate measure of human beauty.

Later, the market was expanded to apartheid South Africa and then onwards to East Africa till eventually it ended up here in West Africa where it has taken root, from Senegal to the Cameroon Republic.

The sad thing about these skin bleaching creams is the highly powerful and toxic chemicals they contain, which are eventually harmful to their users. Most of them contain corticosteriods and hydroquinones which peel off the outer layers of the skin, exposing it to the harmful rays of the sun.

Many women who have used these creams over long periods of time, have ended up with severely damaged skins, with some even contracting skin cancer in the long run. Some have also developed other serious skin diseases which defy medical treatment. According to surgeons, the wounds women who regularly bleached their skins had, did not heal early and properly when they were operated on. Their skins lose the ability to develop scar tissue to close up ruptures. Some even die due to septicaemia, which is infection of the skin.

So serious is the problem of skin bleaching that we believe the authorities must wake up to the great dangers posed to our women and even men who still wallow in ignorance over the serious effects of this harmful practice.

The Food and Drugs Board, Customs, Excise and Preventive Service, the Police and all stakeholders must get out there and impose severe sanctions on the purveyors of these dangerous products. As matters stand now, a few selfish people are reaping huge profits by bringing these creams onto the local market.

We all must help eradicate this harmful practice from our society. There must be a real and genuine positive change in our attitudes.

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