Throughout African, Caribbean and Asian countries, the popularity of skin bleaching has caused serious physical and mental health problems. While leaders in some countries are choosing to ignore the issue, the West African nation of Ghana has chosen to do something about it through legislation from their Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Ghana is joining countries like Australia, The United States, and Japan by banning skin lightening products that contain the harmful chemical hydroquinone, used by 30 percent of Ghana’s population.
The popularity of skin bleaching products is often a result of colorism and the perpetuation of European standards of beauty that value lighter skin over darker complexions. In many cases, women with lighter skin in Ghana have more access to employment opportunities and get better treatment in society. For some women, the result of lighter skin is a priority over health, although these products are known for causing serious diseases like skin cancer. Darker women often feel less attractive because beauty ideals do not represent them.
Ghana wants to set the tone for other countries like Nigeria, whom according to the Washington Times, 75 percent of their population uses these harmful bleaching products. Although the effects of colorism are long lasting, the initiative Ghana is taking is bringing more light to the issue and starting a very important conversation in our society. By instilling in people that they are beautiful regardless of the color of their skin, people would feel less inclined to put themselves at risk and would feel more comfortable in their own skin.