Guest Post: What is the connection between Yellow Fever and Bleaching?

oyinkan FMBMeet Oyinkansola Peter-Ajayi a dear sister and colleague. She is down to earth, funny, stylish and classy. I love her “this is me for real style” and she is a lady indeed. Oyinkansola loves life and loves women issues too. So here she will be sharing her thoughts and experience on the field as a reporter weekly. Here is her first post.

Oyinkansola is a Correspondent and Presenter with Radio Nigeria.
She lives by the mantra, “Eagles don’t flock” and tweets @Oyinpeter_ajayi

In deed there are different kinds of fever as Fela Anikulapo Kuti the African Afro beat Icon, wittily sang about back in 1976. But there’s this particular fever that can be swiftly diagnosed with zero education in Medicine. This fever is not characterized by high fever or jaundice or hemorrhaging rather, it’s the dark patches by the patient’s knuckles, elbows, knee caps, the green trickles cruising along his or her hide in their serpentine formations that give such patient away. I suppose you already know this variation of yellow fever. It’s yellow fever caused by bleaching!

How is it that people, women still bleach after so much talk and campaign against bleaching? It beats my understanding each time I ponder on the matter. Let’s talk about bleaching, toning, whitening and those practices that excessively brighten the skin of women. And men too.

Bleaching is an age long beauty therapy . According to historical facts, bleaching was practiced probably prior but certainly during ancient and medieval times in Egypt, China, Asia Minor, and Europe.

By way of definition: it is simply the process of whitening or removing the natural color of the skin by treatment with chemicals or by exposure to heat.

In Nigeria however, the roots of bleaching have been traced back to the colonial era when women wanted to acquire the fairness of the oyinbo people. It was considered a color of superiority. Unfortunately, this trend has refused to fade away as it is now considered an integral part of beauty and makeup. And if the pictures on social media are to be given consideration, you’d agree with me that bleaching is something that should be addressed. Comedians have carved punch lines around ladies who bleach their skin.

To buttress the penchant Nigerians, especially the female folks have for bleaching creams,World Health Organization(WHO) has revealed in a report that Nigeria has the highest number of women using bleaching and skin-toning creams in Africa ahead of Togo and Senegal.

I am asking out loud, “Are these women unaware of the dangers inherent in bleaching their skin”? Despite several studies reinforcing the known fact that bleaching is dangerous and totally unhealthy. A dermatologist at the Federal Medical Centre Abeokuta, South West Nigeria, Dr Laide Oke says:

“cosmetics and whitening products in particular often contain toxic and sometimes carcinogenic ingredients that could cause cancer and other fatal illnesses”.

Doctor Oke informed that chemicals in bleaching creams could seep into the bloodstream or be absorbed by sensitive mucous membranes. She further hinted that blood cancer, ochronosis (hyper-pigmentation of the skin) and other life threatening diseases could be the consequence of using such creams.

At this point one  questions the role of National Agency for food and drugs Administration and Control ( NAFDAC) in checking the ingredients contained in such creams/lotions as some of these ingredients are carcinogenic. It seems that less attention is paid to  cosmetics probably because they are not drugs or food?

If the words of the PRO of the Agency Mr. Anslem Okwonkwo in a national daily are to be favored, the agency has banned the importation of products that contain most active ingredients in bleaching, toning or whitening cream while it has aggressively began a campaign to shut down any industry found using these banned substances.

I have got myself asking tirelessly, what should be done with the individuals or syndicate feeding fat on the billions of Naira being generated through this trade? Interestingly, a cousin of mine who is the Brand Manager of a premium body lotion said to take his brand to the next level, he was asked to pay a certain woman at Yaba market in Lagos a visit as she holds tightly to the coveted crown of Queen of cream mixers. I’m told she mixes all sort of whitening creams and sells not only these creams but injectables and pills that can whiten ackee seeds or as we say in my local parlance “koro-shin” overnight. So what should be done about such people?

Again some folks argue in favour of toning saying its different from bleaching. I’m also asking, is six different from half a dozen? Will the fragrance of a rose cease if the name was altered? Well, to that Dr Oke opined that bleaching and toning were similar because both practice involved the use of chemical substances to lessen the melanin or pigment in the skin. She added that this dangerously exposes the skin to direct sun rays which predisposes the person to skin cancer.

Two chemicals present in bleaching creams, chief of them is hydroquinone. and the other is Mercury. These substances are carcinogenic and injurious to health!

It’s certainly a free world and you can do whatever you like with yourself but then again, have you given serious thoughts to the side effects of bleaching? I recall some years back when I was sent to cover a road traffic accident incident as a reporter. There was this elderly woman who was one of the victims of the accident. She had bleached off all the layers of her skin so much that when we got to the hospital, the doctors could only give her shots of pain relievers to numb her pain. The doctors on duty kept insisting they couldn’t stitch her laceration has her skin had been badly damaged by bleaching agents.

So will you just settle with fate that you were created dark-skinned and bask in the pride of being an African woman. There’s absolutely nothing wrong in that and there are men who sincerely appreciate such women. Actually, I consider it laughable when women lay claim to the misconception that most men like fair or light skinned women. Character repeatedly trumps looks and physical qualities in serious and mature relationships. In fact most men that I interacted with about this issue said out rightly that beauty transcended complexion. Those who have preference fair skinned women, held forth that they appreciated if the fairness was natural as against those who bleached to achieve it.

So I’d ask the male readers of Femininematerz, do you consider fair-skinned women more attractive than dark skinned women?

Word Glossary:
Ackee Seeds/koro-shin – Seeds of a pear shaped fruits usually very black in color.

Oyinbo- Nigeran way of describing a white skin foreigner
yellow fever- A slang for bleaching going by Fela Anikulopo Kuti’s song.

Carcinogenic – Ingredients Can cause cancer

Yaba Market- A popular open market in Lagos State, Nigeria.

NAFDAC- Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control.

ochronosis- hyper-pigmentation of the skin.

Oyinkansola Peter-Ajayi (C)


3 thoughts on “Guest Post: What is the connection between Yellow Fever and Bleaching?

  1. Very well said. I honestly understand the craze to get even a little fairer.
    The long term hazardous effect has to be reiterated.
    NAFDAC, SON, Consumer Association of Nigeria and the likes should wake up to their responsibilities .
    I’m black. I’m beautiful!!!


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