There were boys on the beach playing soccer practice—and then I saw her. She was an average looking woman in her early twenties wearing very causal African attire with a matching headscarf. She was standing in the shade and had this white cream all over her face, arms, legs, hands and feet. I first thought it was sun tanning lotion but it was on too thick.
I asked my DRC friend what she had on and he said that she was trying to get “clair” which in French slang means to become light. I was shocked. “Not in Africa,” I thought. However, there she was, standing in front of my face. She was attired in African garb but trying to “de-Africanize” herself.
Unfortunately, her skin is now multi-coloured from bleaching. She has red skin on her face, yellow on her arms and dark skin on her back. The skin on her knees, toes and finger joints failed to lighten and continue black.
Consumers of bleaching cosmetics claim that they want to enhance their beauty. One woman who declined to be named, explains, “One has to look good, by having fair, lighter skin.”
For this woman, the condition of her skin has only brought her shame; she now tries to cover most parts of her body in an attempt to cover up the damage done by the products she thought would enhance her beauty.
Julius Kambarage Nyerere was President of the Republic of Tanzania, and a politician of principle and intelligence, he gave a wise elders parting advice to black Africa to be self-reliant and go it alone not to rely to Europeans or Arabs. And he added that black Africa should organize itself, by itself and for itself.
Jean Nyampinga used to work with a woman who was bleaching her skin. All of the woman’s co-workers looked down on her for using these destructive products.
Nyampinga said “I could easily read the disappointment in her face when I asked her to talk about her skin. Her response is a clear testimony to the negative effects of bleaching cosmetics and hint at the lengths some will go to for beauty. Her unhappiness is the other side of beauty that we rarely see, but one that can easily be avoided.
In Rwanda, the practice of skin bleaching is common among people who hail mainly in Nyamirambo-Kigali especially with a Congolese background, and men are not an exception.
All this is wrong, believing that blacks cannot achieve anything without white guidance. The campaigns and sacrifices made by freedom strugglers in recent history to ensure that black people included cultural awareness such as “Black is Beautiful.”
Is Nyerere likely to be heeded?
To accept Nyerere’s advice, we need to appreciate the psychological yearning that being what we are satisfies. Skin bleaching and hair straightening: all are desperate attempts to desert the African heritage and join the now more developed world.
Thankfully therefore there are Black and beautiful women around today who are aware of their holy beauty without bleaching their skin or cosmetic surgery.
Ansumpta Muganwa, working with World Vision-Rwanda said bleaching the skin is “an insult to us as Africans and another form of colonialism”.
“I am black and proud; Rwandans /Africans should be educated at a young age to appreciate their skin colour,” Muganwa said.
Bleaching is not African
Studies show that when individuals repeatedly apply skin-bleaching creams with high levels of corticosteriods, in some cases daily use for over five to seven years, their bodies become accustomed to receiving the steroid through the cream and their hormone levels drop extremely low.
The prolonged use of illegal steroid cream can lead to a diagnosis of Cushing’s Syndrome- a hormonal disorder that results in thinning skin, the development of stretch marks, weak bones, fatigue, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, and anxiety.
She revealed that the prolonged use of bleaching cosmetics can indeed be disastrous both psychologically and physically.
In Rwanda, these products have been inappropriately used for skin lightening purposes. Thankfully, the ban of these chemicals is aimed at protecting unsuspecting consumers and discourages dumping of these products in the Rwandan Market.
Expert take on Skin Bleaching Cream
Skin bleaching is very dangerous and many African countries have been trying to ban it. Public service campaigns about the harmful effects that come from bleaching skin have been implemented.
Beatrice Mukaluriza, a Pharmacist in Kigali explains that, skin lightening or bleaching is a very popular cosmetic practice around the world.
“Recent medical studies have discovered many dangers associated with the use of these lightening creams,” she said.
“It’s very dangerous because these bleaching products make your skin inflamed, turn red, enlarges and begins to loose function as the cells fail to produce melanin,” she explained.
Since numerous individuals are seeking lighter and more even skin tones for purely cosmetic reasons they cannot obtain a prescription for safe skin bleaching creams.
Mukaluriza emphasized that despite the ban of these cosmetics; creams are easily accessible on the black market.
“Africans should do something radical to counter their low self-esteem and take advantage of the good parts of our body and talents,” she said.