The Business Behind Skin Bleaching: 5 Telling Facts

On the heels of Bill Duke's 'Light Girls,' details of prevalent use come back to the forefront

Dencia’s Whitelicious made global news as controversial upon its release and marketing by the African pop star. (Image: File)

With the recent debut of Bill Duke’s “Light Girls,” many women and men have turned their attention to prevalent issues of colorism among people of color around the world.

One aspect of the conversation that was consistently included among viewers of the documentary, and oftentimes related to colorism, is skin bleaching, a practice that has been gaining popularity for the past decade, not only in Africa, but also in America and various other countries. In 2013, a study by the University of Cape Town found that more than 1/3 of women in South Africa (35%) bleach their skin because they want to have “white skin.” Nigerians are the biggest users of bleaching agents, with 77% of women using the products on a regular basis. While the practice may seem harmless, dermatologists are seeing growing numbers of skin and blood cancers as well as an increase in burns, skin damage, and ochronosis. Besides just health risks, the topic is also a lightning for controversy in the media. Celebrities, such as Beyoncé, Lupita Nyong’o, India Arie, have all appeared on the cover of magazines as a noticeably different color than they actually are.

Check out more quick stats about skin bleaching and the business behind it on the next pages …

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