In Summary
  • Side effects include sensitive skin that becomes uneven in tone, stretch marks, and in the worst cases, ochronosis.
  • Black cultural movements are trying to challenge longstanding Eurocentric standards of beauty by celebrating natural skin and hair.


Skin bleaching in Africa is gaining popularity despite many health risks.

In spite of the danger, people use toxic creams and injections and pills to become more fair, in the belief that lighter skin is a gateway to beauty and success.

Ingredients may include hydroquinone, steroids, mercury and lead — the same element that in high concentrations poisoned Elizabethan courtiers who powdered their faces ivory white.

Many governments in Africa have banned the sale of bleaching creams and warned about taking high doses of a lightening compound called glutathione, which is sold as injections or pills.

But demand for the bleaching products far exceeds what authorities can regulate.

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