The harmful practice of skin-bleaching remains a serious issue across Caribbean, African, and Asian countries; but fortunately, one country is doing something about it. The West African nation of Ghana has taken a stand against the multi-billion dollar skin-bleaching industry with a new daring piece of legislation.
According to Answers Africa, the Food and Drugs Authority of Ghana has issued a ban on the importation of all products which contain the skin-lightening chemical hydroquinone. Hydroquinone, found in popular products like Fair & Lovely, has been known to cause side effects like skin irritation, blistering, and severe discoloration. It’s also been suggested that skin-lightening products have the potential to cause skin cancer.
Ghana joins countries like Australia, the United States and Japan which have already isntalled regulations against these kinds of products. The ban in Ghana is especially significant given the prevalence of skin-bleaching on the continent, where 70% of Nigerian women alone admit to using skin lightening products.
In large part, the popularity of these products is the result of colorism: the discrimination of people with dark skin complexions. In many countries in Africa, men and especially women with lighter skin are favored over those with darker skin, leading to better opportunities and treatment in society.
As a result, millions of women across the continent choose skin-bleaching products in order to achieve a “yellow” or “red” glow, putting themselves at risk for all kinds of skin issues and diseases.
Hopefully, the ban in Ghana and other African countries like Cote d’ Ivoire will encourage other nations to crack down on a harmful and archaic practice. It’s a tiny step in the right direction, but the fight to solve the systemic issue of colorism still has a long way to go.