“Will a ban solve Africa’s bleaching problem?” This is one of many critical questions readers have asked in response to my post on African countries drastically cracking down on the sale of bleaching products containing hydroquinone.
Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Rwanda have each taken a daring stand against the toxic lightening industry. These African countries have outlawed the sale of chemical whiteners, such as Maxi-White, Néoprosone, and Caro-White, for health reasons. Violators are fined heavily and charged with criminal offense. But users’ addiction to bleaching creams, injectables, soap, or lotion leaves many to wonder if a ban is truly the answer to Africa’s widespread bleaching problem.
“It will only make the supply of bleaching cosmetics a lucrative business,” one reader argued, suggesting the need for constant, intentional conversations around the issue of colorism or color bias, instead of embargo.
Obviously, the enforceability of a ban on bleaching products promises to be an uphill battle. Without the necessary resources and data, tackling this issue remains a huge problem. Besides, users’ willingness to do or pay anything for “fairer skin” dims the prospects of any piece of legislation. For instance, Côte d’Ivoire, a major production point of bleaching creams, is still grappling with enforcing its 2015 ban. Market stalls and shop shelves of the Marché d’Adjamé, Abidjan’s main business district, are inundated with toxic lighteners, amidst the embargo.
Generally, Africa has a long way to go in its fight against colorism because bleaching blackness is more sociological and psychological. There is consistent, high demand for toxic whiteners, despite health concerns. And this high demand means these products will continue to be mass-produced and blatantly sold, even if they are illegal. It also means that an embargo is only a drop in the ocean—bleaching will continue as long as “fair skin” remains the preferred skin color and the sale of lighteners remains profitable.
Thankfully, there is still hope for change: like the Natural Hair Movement that is making huge strides in encouraging black women to appreciate their natural afro-textured hair, we need a Natural Skin Movement to encourage women of color to love the skin that they are in.
The natural hair movement discourages the use of straightening chemicals on black hair. It also advocates against the use of wig-tensions as black hair concealers—simply encouraging black women to embrace and be comfortable with their unaltered/afro-textured hair. This is exactly what is needed in the fight against skin bleaching. Embargoes won’t work. We need a natural skin movement to encourage black women to embrace their blackness.
****Please leave your thoughts below****