Taking good care of the skin among females is an age-old desire and culture for years. They do develop various practices for skin care in order to look beautiful and attractive. Girls of all generations, past and present, have been involved in the art of such beautification, in which one area of focus, recently, may be skin bleaching, which seems to have become a major trend among Kano females.
Skin bleaching is considered as the act of purposefully and deliberately changing one’s skin colour through the application of substances or solutions on the skin, with the sole intent of making the skin colour to look lighter and brighter. Skin bleaching is an ongoing trend and practice among Nigerians irrespective of gender, class, age or region.
Research has shown that, the idea of “Fara ko mayyace”, which literary means “even if a lady is a witch”, by Kano male citizens has drastically driven females into the habit of bleaching their skin in order to look more attractive, fashionable, elegant and adorable in the eyes of men. Many reasons have been adduced and as to why people bleach their skin, including self-identity, self-esteem, and the desire to look “more beautiful”.
According to some, they bleach their skin to remove skin imperfections such as rashes, dark spots and pimples and make or maintain softer skin so they can meet the western standard of beauty; make themselves look “more attractive” in the eyes of their potential partners, and impress or meet their friends’ approval.
Today, it is hard within Kano to see group of females without some with skin bleaching. It has become a tradition that even light-skin females bleach themselves with the sense that their bride price will be high or their class will increase when it comes to courtship or marriage. Wives too are not left behind in this act. They engage in it in order to maintain their husbands out of fear that ladies that bleach might snatch them away and in another way round, to help them to maintain their marriages.
Men too are not excluded. They engage in it for the purpose of becoming attractive to their female counterparts, celebrities, or copying local and western musicians/actors. In the past, when a man bleached his skin, he did so because he was effeminate, but, today, he does so to become a celebrity or popular and respected.
Others use pills to steam themselves while some use steaming pile which removes their skin to be light as the society considers white as beauty; though, bleaching, as research has shown, has no benefits but harm. Economically, instead of users to spend their hard-earned income on something beneficial, they end up squandering it on harmful bleaching-products.
The situation has become so bad that many women now have disturbing discolouration, contrasting colours and dark spots. The knuckles, knee caps and elbows are not spared as they carry different colours.
Skin bleaching, as disclosed by Dr. Shamsudden Haladu, a dermatologist at Yadakunya General Hospital, popularly called Bela Hospital, creates significant health problems to the users. Sadly, in Kano, its use has become widespread due to easy access to various brands of bleaching creams at various markets and shops.
A body that has been bleached becomes very light, fragile and tears easily. Bleaching also leaves spots on the skin after being scratched or hard hit by an object. Such spots make the skin look rough and unattractive. The doctor reveals that people differ in colour based on the five layers that human beings have: stratum corneum, stratum lucidum, stratum granulosum, stratum spinosum and stratum basale.
The basale layer which is the last has some cells called melanocytes which are cells that make melanin and gives our skin a dark colour. All human beings have the same melanocytes; the only difference is the amount of melanin that melanocytes produce.
Skin bleaching has been established to have severe side effects. It has also been identified as the source of serious health-related issues among users, especially those who subject their bodies to creams formulated without proper safety precautions regarding chemical contents used in their production.
The use of skin bleaching has also been reported to be responsible for skin cancers, skin discolouration, depression among users leading to negative outcomes. Other risks include skin damage and serious depigmentation.
According to Dr. Haladu, one should contact a dermatologist or visit a hospital before using any bleaching cream, soap and if possible, one should eat fruits as they contribute immensely in treating and whitening skin than using any cream product.
Garba writes from Kano via [email protected]; 08069771400