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Senegalese women risk permanent skin damage for sake of lighter shade

In many African countries, skin lightening products are big business, racking up billions of dollars in revenues for Western manufacturers. According to the World Health Organisation, 27% of Senegalese women regularly use these home treatments. A local Dakar newspaper, Sud Quotidian, claims more than 60% of women use skin bleaching products for cosmetic purposes.

In Senegal, lighter skin is often seen as more attractive, with ‘café au lait’ considered the perfect tint. Sophisticated advertising reinforces this perception, with lighter-skinned women often being presented as the ideal. But not everyone agrees: some men still say they prefer their ladies black.

Irrespective of class or level of education, the majority of Senegalese women seem to be onboard with the idea that lighter skin is more attractive. They are ready and willing to spend significant sums on prescription-strength creams and pills. Many believe men are more interested in lighter-skinned women – specifically their husbands.

However, artificial skin bleaching can cause many health complications. Dark spots on fingernails and black circles under the eyes are common. More serious side effects include lethal skin lesions, heart problems and cancer. One hospital in Dakar notes that ten percent of their female patients suffer from problems caused by skin lightening.

To find out more about skin-whitening trend, watch Beauty and the Bleach  on RTD website.