Yes, by their actions, some mothers have really gone mad as they think that God is stupid. What such mothers do calls back to mind the scripture in the Bible: “The fool said in his heart, there is no God.” If you still don’t understand, then consider this: have you noticed the current trend where some mothers have started to bleach the skin of their little girl-children? Have you also taken note of young female students who are already having green veins? What about the sweat associated with bleaching? At assembly grounds in schools, you find students sweating profusely because of the harsh creams applied to their bodies. What about young girls in boarding schools who resume with skin-toning creams?
I was shocked when I visited a former neighbour, to rejoice with her on the birth of her first child, after eight years of waiting for the fruit of the womb. What I observed on that visit inspired this piece. I was ushered into the room where the beautiful baby girl was being attended to by the grandmother. Mama brought down the stuff for bathing the baby and I saw matching soap and cream called CT+. As Mama was bathing the baby with the light orange soap, I stretched my hand and took the lotion, to read the contents. Written on the label were these attributes of the lotion: Clear Therapy, Extra Lightening Lotion and Flawless Complexion. I could not hold back as I asked the new mother why such soap and lotion should be used for the baby. What happened to Johnson & Johnson, Pears, MotherCare and other similar products made exclusively for babies? The new mother, Pat, said that the baby needed to be beautiful from the start. I was shocked to my marrow. I simply decided to keep my congratulatory envelope in my bag and left the place earlier than I planned.
Some silly, ignorant mothers now believe it is wrong to have children, especially girls, with naturally dark skin. To them, the natural dark complexion is now regarded as old school because they believe that fair complexion better reflects the Internet age, aje-butter image. This warped mentality is fast spreading like a virus. Why the current craze for skin bleaching? Do men play a role in this desire of a growing number of ladies to bleach their skin? I think it is more likely that the devil is behind the new madness – as another way of ‘fighting’ the good work of God, by poisoning the minds of ladies, making them believe that God made a mistake in allowing them have a genetic makeup that defined the tone or colour of their melanin right from the womb. Really, this trend is beyond being a fade. Or am I the only old school Aunty that has resolutely refused to embrace it?
I just wonder whether mothers of young girl-bleachers are aware of the dangers that loom ahead after the skin has been irreparably damaged by bleaching. Most of them think that the exciting names of bleaching creams and soaps such as organic, carrot, clear off pigmentation, palm kernel and avocado represent exactly what the names suggest. Yes, the beautiful names may sound interesting and appealing, but what about the other hidden destructive chemical contents of the soaps and creams? When a child under the supervision of parents, guardians, adults or even neighbours get issues wrong, should that child not be corrected and given the right advice? Why are parental responsibilities taking a back seat while irresponsibility thrives and is applauded in some quarters? Who should be blamed for a child’s bleaching? Are parents, especially mothers, ashamed of dark skins that God gave their babies? Skin colour is determined by genes passed on at conception.
Wait a minute! Is there a weightier form of child abuse than bleaching the skin of a new born child? Simply put, a mother who bleaches her child’s skin is an abusive mother with very low esteem, regardless of her socio-economic. Why do so? Is it to look more beautiful, more attractive to the men folk or what? Given their effects, some shops that sell bleaching creams display a boldly written notice that says, “For Adults Only.” You find such notice in beauty centres that offer cream mixing services in addition to hair and nail care.
Ask Dr. Charles Nga, a consultant dermatologist at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH), how he feels about skin bleaching by both old and young alike, and he would tell you: “On using skin lightening soaps or creams, the first danger is mild burning which may progress to stinging, redness, and dryness; it could also blow up into swelling while making crusts on the skin, severe burning and eventual damage of the skin.”
In view of the expert opinion of the consultant dermatologist, I want to ask parents, particularly mothers: “Do you want this for your beloved child, assuming the bleaching is being done out of ignorance? Mind you, the major function of the skin is protection. Skin lightening agents gradually thin out the skin thereby removing some layer of protection. In such persons, one may notice visible blood vessels beneath the skin. Thinning of the skin causes poor wound healing especially after a surgery. In such persons, the wound will breakdown even after suturing. The visible blood vessels may easily burst and bleed into the skin with ease.
As Nga further reveals, bleaching causes non-uniform colouring. This is no secret because the darker tone of the knuckles is always obvious, because they are resilient to the effects of the bleaching agents. In some cases, the skin has patches (like maps) of different sizes, colours and shapes, thereby presenting an unpleasant sight than the original uniformly dark skin. Bleaching leaves scars on the skin. These arise from the attempt of the skin to heal after being burnt or damaged by the bleaching agent.
“Incidentally, skin lightening agents damage other organs, especially the kidneys, liver and nerves because any substance applied on the skin is absorbed from the extremely large surface of the whole skin,” says Nga. Granted, the substance may be in minute quantities but the surface area involved and the duration of application ensures that a large quantity is absorbed into the system.
Again, there is the increased risk of skin cancer because skin pigment, melanin, is released in reaction to the sun to protect the body from dangerous ultra violet rays. Therefore, reduction of the melanin makes the skin more vulnerable to the sun. It is for us to also know that other diseases that have been associated with skin lightening agents include diabetes mellitus and Cushing syndrome as they are particularly caused by steroid containing preparations. The skin is also more vulnerable to micro-organisms leading to skin infections.
In as much as there generational gap and change in societal mores influenced by Western culture, lifestyle and the social media, I strongly believe that standard practice remains standard practice. No man or woman has ever won any laurel because of lightening his or her skin. Rather, they invite external diseases that could have been avoided. Honestly, people who are into such practice are very little minded, suffering from poverty of thought content and debasement of their bodies. Anyone who indulges in bleaching lives in denial, faces verbal abuse and possibly, outright rejection. In a family where mother and daughters tone the skin, it shows at old age. While growing up, there was a well-known lady, who was very fair in complexion when the going was good, but ended up looking horrible and dark when the chips were down, because of how she bleached herself in the past. For those that did not know the dangers of toning or bleaching, today is your day of enlightenment.
Dear Nigerians, let us all think of what is universally acceptable, socially desirable and economically profitable. In view of the numerous dangerous after effects, skin lightening may not be worth it in the long run.