Why the Obsession with Skin Lightening: The “Halo Effect”?

Updated: Jan 19, 2020

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 77% of women in Nigeria use skin bleaching products -- the world's highest percentage.

Why do women bleach?

Many women do not bleach, whiten or lighten their skin colour simply because they are vain. Generally, they do so because fair skin is too often seen as more attractive and can provide an economic advantage. Even in the corporate world, many would agree that women with lighter skin are often more successful in securing jobs, particularly in sales and marketing.

There is evidence to support this thinking: In psychology, it is known as the "halo effect" -- we tend to assume someone has other "positive" qualities because they possess one; hence the better someone looks, the better a person we think they are.

Colorism better explains the relevance of the halo effect to the thinking behind skin bleaching. Ademolu, a PhD researcher at the UK's University of Manchester, defines colorism as "an intra-racial complexion-based hierarchy, that often gives societal, cultural, economic privileges and favoritism towards lighter-skinned people and discrimination against those with darker complexions." This is evident in many parts of Africa, where light-skinned women are considered more beautiful and therefore more likely to succeed in some fields, such as in the modeling and movie industries.

Despite the justification for those who bleach, skin bleaching poses its dangers.

Dangers of skin bleaching

Although safer alternatives exist, many of the bleaching and lightening products used in Africa contain harmful ingredients such as mercury, hydroquinone, parabens, Formaldehyde, phthalates and high-dose steroids. These ingredients can cause kidney failure and other illnesses, making skin bleaching a public health problem that governments may need to address. This health problems in Nigeria and across Africa are not just clinical, they are economic and social in nature -- according to Dr. Ola Brown.

Perhaps, that is too much hassle for a fair complexion.

Due to the dangers of skin bleaching, several African countries including Rwanda and Ghana, recently banned the use of skin bleaching products (CNN). Banning harmful bleaching products, alongside other measures, could help reduce the use of unsafe skin bleaching in the region.

Source: HowAfrica


Still craving for more? Check out: Independent.co.uk

Article Credit: Shadrach Adamu

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