“Women fought the battle for equality because they did not want to be reduced to their genitals and mammary glands. However, today, it is women like Vera Sidika and Kim Kardashian who encourage women to self-mutilate” – Rasna Warah
In her last editorial Rasna Warah spoke of the injustice that some female social practices have misguided today’s young women and reversed gains on the feminism struggle. While reading the piece, I couldn’t help but think of how the recently re-emerging trend of skin lightening is reducing Kenyan women to self-mutilating and basing their social esteem on the tone of their skin.
Call it bleaching, un-tinting or whatever, this practice is harmful, both physically and psychologically. However, it is not a new practice. Since ancient times, women would do bizarre things in a bid to achieve a fairer skin tone. Leeches were placed on some body parts to suck away blood until one looked pale… this was considered beauty.
Well, of course the audience (especially men) saw an astonishingly beautiful lady on the outside but little did they know the efforts and side effects experienced by the woman.
So for you impressionable young ladies who believe that the catapult to your social stardom lies in popping that pill or applying that cream to achieve a spotless and money minting ‘yellow yellow’ skin tone, here are some facts to help you make some informed choices.
A research carried out in 2011/12 by Kenya Sue Smart highlights the causes and effects of skin bleaching use in the African community (academia.edu).
Participants in the study presented symptoms such as increased levels of tenderness of the skin, frequent bouts of spots or pimples, offensive smells and even death in a few adverse reaction cases.
Other widely known effects also highlighted in webmd.com include;
The skin is one of the largest organs in the body in surface area and weight. It has three main functions: protection, regulation and sensation. So when thinned out using lightening products, these functions are adversely affected as well.
Mainly skin cancer/Melanoma due to the thinning of the top protective layer caused by bleaching agents that destroy melanin, thus causing more exposure to the harmful UV sun rays.
The skin is composed of elastin and collagen. With age, the elasticity and collagen in your skin begins to break down for a number of reasons such as age or from being destroyed by free radicals. Exposure to harmful chemical contained in skin lighteners cause premature damage, such as a burns. This not only destroys collagen but also depletes the skin of its ability to self-heal and regenerate. Yes you will seem to be aging faster!
Mental health problems, isolation and self-hate
Skin lightening is a lifestyle that needs to be maintained. One must spend a lot to get high quality products and regular checkups. This costs money, a lot of money which one may not have or may have to engage in negative habits to attain. If this isn’t achieved one may get frustrated, stressed, depressed and eventually start to experience mentally problems alongside other general illnesses.
The same society that celebrates a beautiful light skinned lady will be quick to ridicule her when embarrassing changes appear. Remember the memes of dark knuckles and ghostly faces, how about MJ’s falling nose! Thus one is forced to hide in shame and even consider suicide or eventually succumb to the sores. Wouldn’t that be a waste of skin?
Truly, dear ladies you are more than skin deep. How about appreciating that and living to your full potential within your skin-in its original state.
Mwende Maritim is a budding freelance writer based in Nairobi, Kenya. She has always had a passion for well written content but began writing professionally in 2014. Her writing mainly covers lifestyle issues and anything to inspire people especially the teenagers she mentors.