A CONTROVERSIAL skin lightening product range which was released by a Cameroonian-Nigerian musician sold out within a day of being launched, according to reports.
Whitenicious, by Dencia, which is sold online for $150 per 60 ml and is advertised as a Knees and Elbows moisturizing cream and skin lightener, defied heavy criticism to prove a hit in Nigeria.
Dencia posted on twitter: “What just happened? Whitenicious just sold out. Wow, restocking and will have more products by January 10th but you can place orders.”
A recent study by the University of Cape Town suggests that one woman in three in South Africa bleaches her skin. The reasons for this are as varied as the cultures in this country but most people say they use skin-lighteners because they want “white skin”.
The World Health Organization has reported that Nigerians are the highest users of such products: 77 per cent of Nigerian women use the products on a regular basis. They are followed by Togo with 59 per cent; South Africa with 35 per cent; and Mali at 25 per cent.
South African musician Nomasonto “Mshoza” Mnisi, now several shades lighter, says her new skin makes her feel more beautiful and confident.
She has been widely criticised in the local media and social networking sites for her appearance but the 30-year-old says skin-bleaching is a personal choice, no different from breast implants or a having nose job.
Psychologists say there are also underlying reasons why people bleach their skin – but low self-esteem and, to some degree self-hate, are a common thread.
Congolese hair stylist Jackson Marcelle claimed he has been using special injections to bleach his skin for the past 10 years. Each injection lasts for six months.
He told the BBC: “I pray every day and I ask God, ‘God why did you make me black?’ I don’t like being black. I don’t like black skin.”
Marcelle – known in his community as Africa’s Michael Jackson – says his mother used to apply creams on him when he was young in order to make him appear “less black”.
He added: “I like white people. Black people are seen as dangerous; that’s why I don’t like being black. People treat me better now because I look like I’m white.”
But Nigerian blogger, Myne Whitman, said skin bleachers are not just being used by black women who feel inferior because of their dark complexion.
Admitting that she has used products similar to Dencia’s Whitencious, she made the point that often women use bleachers to even their skin tone and remove spots.
She said: “My face is much darker than my body and back in my late teens, I wanted an even look.
My face actually got to the same tone as my quite fair thighs at some point, but I stopped when I realised I was becoming a slave to those creams and had got into a vicious cycle – from using them on only my face, I began using them all over as my face got lighter than my body.”
Whitman claimed she stopped using the products after being enlightened about the possible side-effects of long-term use.
But she says understands why women use skin lighteners, not because they are ashamed of their colour but as a beauty aid.
Critics of skin bleaching, which include health professionals have highlighted the dangers associated with the use of some of skin lightening creams.
Blood cancers such as leukaemia and cancers of the liver and kidneys, as well as a severe skin condition called ochronosis, a form of hyper-pigmentation which causes the skin to turn a dark purple shade, have been linked to products.
Senior researcher at the University of Cape Town, Dr Lester Davids said: “Very few people in South Africa and Africa know the concentration of the toxic compounds that are contained in the products on the black market and that is concerning. We need to do more to educate people about these dangerous products.”
Campaigners are calling for public information campaigns which alert people to the health risks and address self-esteem issues. – Voice
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