Nigeria allegedly has over 99.5 million users of bleaching products while India boasts a whopping 735 million users.
Skin bleaching is a reality usually aroused by a need to change one’s skin colour, upon feeling uncomfortable in a darker skin tone.
A 2002 survey by Zero Hg, Mercury Working Group placed Nigeria second on a least of bleaching product consumption with a staggering 99 million users, underlining the effects of colourism in Nigeria and the need to be the societal standard for beautiful. India is first with 735 million users.
In Nigeria, light-skinned women are placed upon a hushly whispered bias and pedestal with privileges like acting roles geared towards them. It’s not the fault of casting directors, Nigeria just loves and appreciates its light-skinned women.
In Yoruba, there are sayings that aim to adore the ivory or paler skin tones of light-skinned women. Though there are sayings for dark-skinned women, they are not as detailed as with their lighter counterparts.
Even crazier, the average Nigerian man might select all the light-skinned women in a pool to select beautiful women before he even thinks of the darker ones who might be more beautiful.
Nigeria currently boasts a worrying amount of ‘bleaching experts’ with famed cross-dresser, Bobrisky one of them – they are making money through sales and advisory to underline the pressing need and concern of women to get that lighter skin tone.
It is befuddling how much the reality has been warped to suit this narrative. A cursory look at some light-skinned babes and you can easily find evidence that they were born dark, with some discoloration, contrasting colours and dark spots.
The knuckles, knee caps and elbows could be at warring loggerheads, flying different colours to the rest of the body like two warring confraternities in a Nigerian government University or the face and the body could be in stark disagreement as to the singular colour the body should follow – with each colour competing for attention with the body owner who goes a purge to be ‘laiskin’
Recently, a company posted a job ad and specifically requested a light-skinned women for a front desk role. Like the casting directors, it’s not their fault either. They’re only conforming to society’s definition of ‘attractive’. Who does not want society’s definition of ‘beautiful’ at his front desk?
In a June 22, 2018 BellaNaija article by Cisi Eze, colorism was attributed to internalized racism for placing lighter skin of a pedestal. As such, women had to find a way to measure up and stay in the conversation or get phased out by the demand for darker skin in places that matter.
Even in high-end prostitution, light-skinned women literally command higher fees as ‘Madames’ generally demand more from them.
Like the caste system in India, granting privilege based off skin tone, Nigeria seems to be going through same in a county where we all carry the African hair.
We can definitely find a common ground in creating a new standard of ‘good looking’ that goes beyond lighter skin. However, it is easier said than done. A caste system, so ingrained as Nigeria is harder to eradicate, probably more than toxic patriarchy and usually unspoken with people accustomed to it and only jealousy as its only adversary to mainstream exposure.
Do we then go on aggressive exposure of this subtle demon? That will definitely achieve something, but I would be loath to see it create a standard of political correctness that people only adhere to at face value. People should genuinely see that beauty is in all colours and it behooves people in the public eye as advertisers, modelling agents and casting directors to use their selections for subconsciously changing this warped narrative.
Nonetheless, in the global context, skin bleaching products make up 23% of the skin care product market.