A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

The Darker Side of Light:
By Ezinne Ukoha
Skin bleaching has been a major issue in the African and African-American community. What was once hidden and never talked about is now a common practice that is proving to be a booming trade in most parts of Europe. Not too long ago a cosmetics store on Brixton’s Electric Avenue in London was raided by body-armored police officers who were on a mission to hunt out and confiscate any contraband cosmetics – basically anything that resembled skin bleaching creams. As with most of these raids their search proved fruitful and within minutes they had already targeted dozens of soaps and creams that all contained skin bleaching agents. But this seems to be a problem that is no where near being eradicated.

The origin of skin bleaching stems from the need and the desire of darker skinned people mostly of African and African-Caribbean descent to lighten their skin because of the psychological load that has been carried for centuries, that echoes the fact that lighter skin is more attractive than darker skin. This could also be residue from the horrors of slave trade. The consequences of that shameful part of our history is still being felt today through the feelings of inadequacy and self-hatred that seem to plague many Africans and African-Americans.


The message that keeps getting through is that lighter skinned people have better opportunities so therefore their quality of life is automatically better than their dark skinned counterparts. And the images we see portrayed in the media don’t do much to convince them otherwise. The ads featured in fashion magazines and on television and the mainstream media seem to still cater to a mostly Caucasian audience. The psychological repercussions of this is evidently quite damaging to the black community due to the lasting effects that still linger.



Women feel in order to attract the ultimate guy they have to look a certain way to make that a reality. Whether we admit to it or not it’s not a coincidence that most successful men especially the ones in the public eye seem to prefer being seen with women who are either clearly of mixed heritage. Actors and entertainers like Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte and Quincy Jones who ironically enough were active and visible participants during the racial tensions of the ‘60s succumbed to the pressures of that era at the risk of their own community.  They all ended up with mates that were clearly as far away from their ethnic background as possible. This mentality that “light is better” is the consensus that is spreading like wild fire across the globe. Even parts of India and Asia have been plagued and demand for products that are guaranteed to lighten skin tones have increased substantially over the last few years in order to accommodate the growing population.

Unfortunately the side effects of this habit are potentially deadly. Hydroquinone, the bleaching agent responsible for the skin lightening results users get after persistent and continual use of these products, is safe only if used as directed. But a lot of consumers tend to overuse these products hoping for better and faster results and this invariably can cause skin damage. Another cause for concern is the fact that a lot of these skin bleaching creams, some of which are branded with names like Marie-Claire or Diana may contain various toxic agents that with prolonged misuse can eventually lead to weakened immune systems, organ failure and eventually death.

There really isn’t a safe way to physically alter the tone of your skin. Clearly there is a legitimate need for some skin bleaching products as a way to reduce the appearance of age spots and minimize skin discolorations. But these reasons have been blindsided by the growing demand for more dangerous products that are made specifically to bleach out and permanently damage the skin. The motivation for such practice is obviously beyond skin deep. The better alternative would be to try to bleach out the internal insecurities that are holding the black race hostage and replace those with pride and self value. Its time to put the skin bleaching trade out of business for good!