Cameroonian/Nigerian Pop singer Dencia recently launched a skin-care line called Whitenicious with the purpose of, helping users “rid themselves of pesky dark spots by gradually lightening the hyper-pigmented areas of their skin” or in simpler terms, lightening the skin tones of black men and women, and numerous blogs and mainstream media across the world have expressed shock that the skin-bleaching range of products have sold out in a matter of days while the Nigerian-based Pop star continues to remain defiant and insists that the ‘Whitenicious’ creams’ usage is to rid people of dark spots and acne.
“A lot of people alleged that I am encouraging bleaching. No, I am not. They can see it from the size of the cream. It is used for certain things. I cannot control how people will use it but Whitenicious is not for bleaching.” – Dencia
The (skin-bleaching) products on her website are referred to as skin-lightening products while images in a Whitenicious advertisement show the singer – who has been known for her deep brown complexion – with a drastically lighter skin tone, seemingly after using the cream. The website tries to advertise the product as a skin-lightening cream to be used on users’ dark spots or dark knees, knuckles or elbows but also elaborates on how it works on all areas of your skin. Skin-bleaching is banned in Nigeria so by re-wording the purpose of the Whitenicious product, Dencia has evaded the law through this loophole.
Since news about Whitenicious broke, Dencia has received both verbal abuse and (surprisingly) praise on social media and blog comment sections. People explain that their frustrations stem from the fact that she is selling and marketing a product which not only shows self-hate but also promotes it. However, verbal insults may not be the right way to approach this situation. It may have been the similar insults from people about her (former) brown skin complexion that caused her to bleach in the first place. Skin bleaching existed long before Dencia released Whitenicious and for her products to sell out completely, there must have been an existing demand for it.
In Nigeria, 77% of women are reported to use skin lightening products on a regular basis, the largest usage of skin-lightening products in the world according to the World Health Organisation. Moreover, skin bleaching is not confined to Nigeria or any one region alone and is also very popular in Asia. Over 60% of skin products in India contain skin lightening chemicals, while in China, Malaysia, Philippines and Korea, skin-lightening products account for just fewer than 50% of all their skin care products.
The problem that is being overlooked in almost every rhetoric about Dencia and her Whitenicious products is the harsh truth that people who bleach their skin are usually motivated by insecurity and self-hate and this, unfortunately, exists irrespective of the presence of Dencia. It is a form of self-harm to chemically damage your skin to imitate another race because you believe your complexion is not beautiful. Those who suffer from this are affected mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. This Whitenicious products selling out symbolizes a cry for help. There are people buying and using this product that may not understand the physical dangers of skin bleaching or the psychologically intent behind bleaching their skin colour.
The situation needs to be approached in a more thought-out manner. If someone is purposely trying to change their skin colour to be viewed in a particular different way, much more than tough love might be needed to get that person to see sense. In some cases, people are unaware as to what skin-bleaching actually does and what’s worse is that skin-bleaching creams often euphemised as skin lightening products are available in every corner shop and department shop across the world. What has been done to remove it from our shelves?
By definition, skin bleaching is the use of chemicals to lighten your complexion by reducing the amount of melanin you have in your skin. This means, once applied to your skin, it attacks and kills your cells and there can be grave side affects because your body is indeed being attacked. Side effects can include inflammation, permanent skin damage, skin mutations, blood cancers, nerve damage, kidney damage as well as bacteria forming and breeding within your skin. Additionally, this “new” complexion is maintained by continuously applying skin bleaching creams. Some women who stop using it have been known to get discoloured blotches all over their skin, and if you continue to use it, you risk permanent skin cell damage. Hopefully, simply knowing these facts actually gets some people to think about the long-term effects.
What is considered beautiful? Is this the same ideal perpetuated by society? Often within the media industry, black features are celebrated on people who are not black, except of course if you are black then the celebration magically disappears. This can cause some conflicting messages to be sent out. Combine this with the social conditioning that takes place in education, the work place and public places where lighter skin tones are often praised as more desirable. This issue is vast, far reaching and could be discussed in depth. For now however, our focus is on skin-bleaching.
The problem has ben recognised so now needs to be tackled. Dencia has inadvertently brought an important issue to mainstream media and hopefully now, it can be addressed on a grander scale and taken more seriously. People need to understand that beauty comes in various skin tones plus melanin is actually good for you. It protects you from sun damage, gives you younger-looking skin, fights free-radical damage and produces collagen that act as an anti-agent plus increased melanin in your brain has shown to produce more brain activity. This should be celebrated and not destroyed.
“It is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass
Words by Suliet Oladokun // Edited by Ayo Adepoju
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