There is a wide range of bleaching products or creams on the Ghanaian market bearing names such as skin toners, carrot light, anti-ageing, lightening bath gels and other steroid soaps.
Marketers of such products use enticing adverts featuring light skinned women, mostly celebrities, with the aim of attracting buyers.
However, the latest and “result oriented” forms of bleaching agents are pills and injections which are taken and injected on the user to lighten the skin and give it a more “radiant” look.
The World Health Organisation defines bleaching as the intentional alteration of one’s natural skin colour to one relatively if not substantially, lighter in colour, through the use of chemical skin lightening agents, either manufactured, homemade or the combination of the two.
Emergence of pills and injections
An agent on the Spintex Road who spoke on condition of anonymity said the products, though popular in western cultures, are imported on the demand of the customer because of the cost and the different need, saying one could pay as much as GH¢ 3,000 for the pills and injections.
She said though they are not advertised or promoted in the mass media, women, especially the young contact her for different pills, injections, as well as soaps and creams.
A sample of the injection she showed to this reporter had the inscription; best whitening, anti ageing injection, no more dark spots, pimples, uneven tones, blemishes and stretch marks with a before and after look on the box showing the effect that could be achieved after using the product.
The pill had inscriptions which seeks to direct the customer to its usage, “take two capsules daily with water 10-15 minutes before meal (one in the morning and one at night).
It added “see results within a week and for an effective whitening, use continuously for three months. Not recommended during pregnancy or
Reasons for using pills and injections
Ghanaian women have ignorantly copied a lot of things from the western culture and unfortunately skin bleaching is one of such.
Whiles some women do it to attract their male suitors, others bleach as a result of low self-esteem or the desire to be accepted within a particular class.
In an interview with Mrs Emma Yankey, a Cosmetologist at 2nd Image Hair and Beauty Clinic, she said these products, though not indicated on them, had a high amount of hydroquinone, lead and mercury chloride or ammoniated mercury which reduce and scrap off the melanin that produce the pigments in the skin.
She said the quantity of these ingredients determined the time and effect a user could get.
Mrs Yankey explained that some women were moving from creams and soaps to injections and pills as they easily diffused into the blood and gave a faster reaction as compared to
the creams and soaps.
“Once it is injected into the body, it enters the bloodstream then the blood circulates it all over the system. Most of the creams and soaps take many weeks or months to achieve results but the injections and pills act faster. So you can inject today and in less than a week, you would start seeing some changes on your skin,” she explained.
Toning or bleaching
A lot of women under the cover of “toning” their skin use different bleaching agents, however, Mrs Yankey said toning and bleaching are two different beauty processes.
“Toning is not lightening the skin; it simply means firming your muscles through some form of exercises which is completely different from bleaching. Skin toning has nothing to do with the colour of the skin.”
Mrs Yankey said skin bleaching, whether by pills or creams, have several short and long-term effects.
She said the chemicals in the bleaching agents weakened the cebom (a natural skin protection and lubricant in the body) resulting in dehydration of the skin, wrinkles, fine lines and breaks the body’s ability to heal quickly.
She said some people experienced severe headache and eye problems without knowing the cause, adding that excessive use of these products could result in cancer and loss of hair.
She advised that anyone who had problems with the skin could see a cosmetologist or dermatologist for proper medication.