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Photos| Skin bleaching in Africa: An ‘addiction’ with risks

Updated: Aug 11, 2018 09:47 IST

A frame displays pictures of a woman who suffers from Exogenous Ochronosis, a cutaneous disorder due to a long-term application of hydroquinone skin-lightening beauty products, at Rabito Clinic which specialises in skin diseases in Accra, Ghana. Africa is experiencing a massive trend of skin bleaching, particularly in teenagers and young adults. In a continent where regulations are often lax or scorned this phenomenon is also laden with health risks. (Cristina Aldehuela / AFP)

Beauty therapist Noorjehan Majam shows skin lightening products imported from Pakistan, where the practice is commonplace and part of most facials, at Heena Salon in Johannesburg, South Africa. In Nigeria alone, 77% of women -- by extrapolation, more than 60 million people -- are using lightening products on a regular basis, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in 2011. (Gulshan Khan / AFP)

A beautician at a salon in Lagos, Nigeria takes a picture of a customer who received skin toning treatment. According to experts, the African market is rapidly expanding as companies seek to cash in on the continent’s booming youth population. More clients are asking firms for insight on the lightening market, with rich people tending to opt for pricier registered products which are available in standard doses. (Stefan Heunis / AFP)

Others are likely to buy creams, often bootleg concoctions mixed in the back streets, which may be dangerous and are blatantly sold in defiance of official bans or constraints. Ingredients may include hydroquinone, steroids, mercury and lead -- the same element that, at high doses, poisoned Elizabethan courtiers who powdered their faces ivory white. (Cristina Aldehuela / AFP)

A shop owner arranges his products most of which are used for skin lightening in Johannesburg. The chemicals used can damage respiratory, kidney and reproductive systems and they can even cause cancer, affect the nervous system, deform unborn babies. In spite of the risks, authorities are struggling to control bleaching innovations, which include a compound called glutathione, taken as injections or pills. (Gulshan Khan / AFP)

Sheila Dhulab has a facial done with skin lightening product for the first time at the Pari Hair Salon in Johannesburg. Those who start using skin lightening say they invariably stay with the practice. “Before you know it, it has become some sort of an addiction where you want to maintain that look,” said Dabota Lawson, a Lagos socialite and cosmetics entrepreneur. (Gulshan Khan / AFP)

Elizabeth Kobiti mixes a skin lightening cream in her beauty salon in Lagos. In this Nigerian city, the creams are assembled by a legion of cosmetologists and sold at a price anywhere from 5,000 naira to 20,000 naira, a prohibitive amount in a country where the minimum wage is just 18,000 naira. (Stefan Heunis / AFP)

A beautician displays capsules and cream used for skin lightening at a beauty shop, in Nairobi, Kenya. Glutathione -- an antioxidant naturally found in the body and sometimes used in cancer therapy that has a lightening side effect -- is the new frontiers of skin bleaching.The older generation used creams, the new generation is moving towards pills and injectables. (Simon Maina / AFP)

Aranmolate Ayobami, plastic surgeon at Grandville Medical and Laser clinic in Lagos, explains glutathione injections used for skin lightening. He charges clients 150,000 naira for a five-week course of injections.The problem with glutathione, as with skin bleaching creams, is regulation. Unlike creams, there is a lack of studies on the impact of long-term use of the new product. (Stefan Heunis / AFP)

A shopkeeper Ruth Dossouvi applies a skin-lightening cream at her shop in Lome. Togo. If many millions of Africans lighten their skin without regret, others are dismayed. “Skin bleaching is one manifestation of folks trying to get power and privilege aligned with whiteness,” said Yaba Blay, a researcher at North Carolina Central University. (Matteo Fraschini Koffi / AFP)

Recent black movements are trying to challenge the perception of whiteness being aligned with power and privilege. #Melaninpoppin, a hashtag celebrating black skin, and the movie “Black Panther,” which featured an almost all-black cast wearing African-inspired outfits and natural hair, are held up as testaments to a shift away from longstanding Eurocentric standards of beauty. But whether the tide of opinion is turning in Africa itself is another question. (Cristina Aldehuela / AFP)

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