Ghana Bans Skin- Bleaching Products

BY: JENNA CALDWELL

From Lil’ Kim to Azealia Banks, skin bleaching appears to be an easy fix for those who suffer from identity issues or low self-esteem. Those who feel the need to bleach their skin have simply fallen victim to the world’s global anti-blackness agenda – something many dark skinned people of color have suffered from since colonial times.

Ghana, a country that has also fallen victim to this colonization, has decided to ban skin-bleaching products in August 2016. Specifically, Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) is banning cosmetics that contain hydroquione, a skin bleaching ingredient believed to cause cancer. According to the African Safety Promotion Journal, it is estimated that 30 percent of women in Ghana use skin lightening products. Unfortunately, rates are higher in other African nations. For example, in Nigeria, 77 percent of women also use these products and in Senegal it is estimated to be between 52 and 67 percent.

Willie Lynch, a British slave owner, once stated in order to control slaves “for at least 300 hundred years” it was necessary to use “Dark skin slaves vs. the Light skin slaves, and the Light skin slaves vs. the Dark skin slaves.” He delivered this speech in 1712, and 304 years later we continue to have #TeamLightSkin vs. #TeamDarkSkin debates.

Lighter skinned men and women were not only chosen to be house slaves while those with dark skin worked in the fields, but have often gotten more opportunities and better treatment due to their lighter complexion in the post-slave era. Light skinned women have always been idealized through media and it has led to severe self-esteem issues within young black men and women. While bleaching may appear to be an easy fix it is not like getting a hair relaxer or wearing a weave as Azealia Banks has attempted to argue. Your hair can grow back, you weave can be removed, your skin cannot re-melanize.

Other nations have also banned cosmetics containing hydroquione including the United States, Japan, Australia and the European Union. Yet, Ghana stands apart from them because it is a primarily black nation, whose actions may lead to a ripple effect amongst other African countries as well.

When we bleach our skin, we are simply allowing the rest of the world to view us as unattractive, a deformity that must be fixed. When we bleach our skin, we are telling the little girls that are constantly surrounded by “white is right” propaganda that their fears are true, they are ugly. When we bleach we put our health at risk in hopes of other people finding us desirable. The issue isn’t the skin, it’s the thinking.

Self-love is key. The next generation should not have to believe they were born unlovable. Our melanin should be celebrated not removed. After all, it is what protects us from the sun rays so our “black can’t crack”. While Ghana has definitely made a step into the right direction, as a global Black community, we must continue to embrace our bodies and be role models for all of the young black men and women struggling with their identities.