A friend told me about her house help that uses a popular brand of cheap bleaching cream and what it did to her skin. According to her, the help’s skin was so discoloured and wrinkled that she couldn’t allow her to handle the house cooking or feed her baby. She said that when it became too unbearable for her to see the help in that form, she decided to change her cream for her. So, my friend seized her help’s cream and gave her another one that had no bleaching effect. Well, the help left a few weeks after my friend’s decision and, you know the most amazing part of the story, she returned the new cream my friend gave her, intact. She did not even break the seal on the cream. She preferred staying dry to using a non-bleaching cream.
I have always wondered why women, and even men, bleach their skins. I have always asked if they did not see people, whose skins were damaged by bleaching creams. I have asked if they thought that bleaching creams will give them flawless light-complexioned beautiful skins. I mean, why do they even believe that what is inside a bottle can change their original skin colour and still make them look good? Worst of it all is that most of them go for very cheap ones.
I know that most people that change their complexions seek for social acceptance but, unfortunately, they earn themselves social rejection. As a child, I was taught how to find people that bleached their skins (check back of the ankles and elbows) and when we see them, we start singing “Iru Fanta okpa Coke” (Fanta face and Coke leg). We make mockery of them even though we do that from a distance. But society never accepts people that changed their skin colour.
Whenever I see people that bleached their skin, I wonder if they know how pathetic they look. I doubt if they know that they have developed red-toned skins that look as if they were stretched. Their veins and arteries are visible and greenish-blue in colour. In fact, the criss-cross intersection of their veins reminds one of the pictures of road networks of a city at night. Their palms and feet remind an onlooker of a well-roasted boli (roasted unripe plantain). Their skins are multicoloured; many look like they were painted by customers for a TV show. Worse of all, they smell. Yes, a little increase in temperature and the people that bleach sweat profusely and smell like the meat you left inside a poly bag overnight.
A lot of health practitioners have been campaigning against bleaching the skin. The side effects of this are more than giving the person a rainbow-coloured zebra-crossing complexion, where no part of the body is evenly toned. The effects are also more than ageing the skin. From what I have heard from health practitioners, bleaching the skin affects and damages internal organs too. From their explanations, the skin can absorb this cream and the active ingredients will find their way into the bloodstream. Apart from causing skin cancer, these active ingredients can affect the kidney, bladder and liver. So why would someone want to alter his melanin just because he or she wants to look…good? I don’t think so.
It may be hard to discourage people from bleaching their skins, but it can be controlled. When Nigerians started committing suicide with Sniper, the government banned it from the open market. Right now, you can’t see Sniper displayed on counters or moved around in push trucks and wheel barrows. It may still be in circulation but it is out of reach of a lot of people. Why then has the government not done to bleaching cream what it did to Sniper?
People may say that those that want to bleach their skins should be allowed to do so. Of course, this is a logical argument considering that cigarettes are still sold in every nook and cranny of the country despite its health hazard. But, how many times have you heard the government insisting that the companies that make bleaching cream include its health hazard on the label? How come these manufacturers are allowed to lie to people with pictures of the “before” and “after” of beautiful women, who they claimed used their products? What is the job of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) if not making sure that products are up to the standard they claimed? People may take decisions to kill themselves, but they should be given an opportunity to reconsider those decisions.
Of course, the job of the government should be to make it hard for those that buy bleaching cream to do so. It can decide to regulate its production and sale. It may decide that only pharmaceutical companies should produce and sell it. It may insist that people should buy it only with a doctor’s prescription. The government can do a lot of things to take these products off the open market and discourage its production. Right now, every Tom, Dick and Harry can buy chemicals and mix up a bleaching cream, pour the liver-killer into a bottle, paste a beautiful label on the bottle and then throw the product into the open market. Our overzealous young men and women will rush that product and, tomorrow, they will come out with damaged external and internal organs.