Beyond Black And White: The Skin Bleaching Epidemic In Africa


The skin bleaching epidemic is indeed a global one, but it is more prominent on the continent of Africa.

There are various reasons people opt to lighten their skin; some do it to remove scars. However, a majority of people bleach their skin saying “they hate themselves because of their skin tone.” This type of thinking has been blamed on Western Colonization. Yet, after so many years of fighting for freedom and equality, the number of people who bleach in Africa is at an all time high.

According to the World Health Organization (W-H-O) Nigeria tops the list with 77% of women using skin-whitening products. Togo came in second with 59% and Senegal third at 27%. With these types of numbers, it is clear that business is booming for the companies that make these products. It also shows that it is time to ban these products like Kenya did in 2001. A lot of people who use these products don’t know the adverse effects, but our goal is keep our Her Daily readers’ knowledgable and informed.

Hydroquinone inhibits the pigment-forming enzyme “tyrosinase” and is the most active ingredient in bleaching creams. It has been banned in Kenya, U.S, Europe and Japan due to the link found with cancer. It is considered to be an irritant above 4% concentration and can be an unstable ingredient in formulations of cosmetic products. Some scientists have also proposed that hydroquinone poisoning can lead to a lower IQ and verbal difficulties. Mercury is also another active ingredient in skin lightening creams. It can cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scaring (according to the W-H O). This particular ingredient is also used in skin-lightening soaps, which some people apply to the skin and leave to dry overnight. All in the hopes of expediting the process of skin lightening. One can’t help but wonder if skin cancer and your reasoning is really worth all the money spent on bleaching products?

Dencia a Cameroonian singer is the creator and has been the face of the product “Whitenicious”. Here is what the product is supposed to do for you Courtesy of Bella Naija:
Dencia a Cameroonian singer is the creator and has been the face of the product
“Whitenicious”. Here is what the product is supposed to do for you Courtesy of Bella

While this product sold out within a day of it hitting the market, what it failed to mention is that its use will totally wash away all traces of one being black. If that’s what you want, surely no one can stop you from going for it, but again, I ask WHY?


As a licensed esthetician, this article would be incomplete if I don’t address the fact that Hyper-pigmentation is one of the big skin disorders for darker skin.  Hyper-pigmentation is an overproduction of pigment caused by increased melanin. It can also be caused by sun exposure, acne, medications and post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation. Using exfoliants and cleansers will help remove those dead skin cells, balancing your skin tone leaving you with the beautiful black skin your creator gave you. In essence, no matter what the media portrays as the “standard of beauty,” we owe it to ourselves to love the skin we’re in.



Oby Nwaogbe

Oby Nwaogbe has spent her career in communications as a television producer and news reporter covering stories that appeal to an international audience. In addition to other assignments, she is a U.S. correspondent for, Nigeria’s most exciting news and entertainment channel based in Lagos. In 2006, Oby founded her video production company, OBONE Productions, LLC providing multimedia and production services to both national and international clients. A licensed esthetician, she started Traveling Chix Mobile Spa, LLC to educate clients on the importance of being healthy from the inside out. Oby holds a Bachelors in Broadcast Journalism Howard University, MA in Strategic Communications from American University, and a licensed skin therapist in DC, MD, VA, and NY

  • I love this article and thank you for addressing this major issue in our culture. Sadly, I would say it is a fault of the “Western” World or rather the implications that they left on our people after colonization. It is only recently that we celebrate our melanin but for decades you had a group of people that believed black was not beautiful. Why? Because Europeans came in and told them they were uncivilized and needed to be colonized. These people wanted to make our people feel inferior so now what we are dealing with are the damages of societies emotional abuse. Ironically though I love my skin I secretly wish I was blue black.

    I love my black men. I love my African men and I preferably love my men African and black so dark that I can’t even see them. ✊