Bleaching Pills to Lighten Their Babies’ Skins, A Growing Trend in Ghana
Skin bleaching pills are increasingly being smuggled into Ghana via airport luggage. The rise in smuggling caused Ghana’s FDA to publicly warn against the dangers of skin bleaching pills.
There is a growing trend in Ghana where pregnant women are taking bleaching pills with the hope of giving birth to light-skinned babies. Though medical experts have warned that this practice could cause birth defects, the women seem undeterred so far.
The Ghana Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) just released a statement warning that it wants “the general public to know that no product has been approved by the FDA in the form of a tablet to lighten the skin of the unborn child.”
The FDA has condemned the use of the bleaching pills and especially mentioned pills containing the active ingredient glutathione, warning they are dangerous and unregulated. The Ghana FDA already banned the use of the skin-lightening chemical, hydroquinone in any skin care products. Even with these revelations, the business of skin-bleaching pills is still booming.
According to the BBC, the bleaching pills in question are illegal, and are often smuggled into the country in large quantities in luggage arriving through airports. The pills are then scrupulously distributed to an eagerly awaiting market, by both companies and individuals.
Skin bleaching is a multi-million dollar industry in West Africa.
A report published by the New York Times in 2016 revealed that there is an existing multi-billion dollar industry for skin-whitening creams and bleaching pills all over West Africa. With many women having embraced the ideology that white is beautiful and superior, almost every cosmetic shop in the region stocks some form of bleaching pill and/or cream.
Some estimates have reported a figure as high as 70% of females in West Africa to be using bleaching products. In Ghana, despite the FDA ban on skin care products containing hydroquinone, an ingredient that prevents the synthesis of melanin; the skin bleaching industry has thrived and opened an avenue for smuggling and illegal businesses.
Black skin is seen as inferior to white skin, resulting in a booming skin lightening industry.
The thriving skin bleaching business has been blamed on the notion that black skin is inferior to white skin, which is perceived as more beautiful. This perception can be traced back to colonial times when Europeans made Africans to believe that the colonizers were powerful, wise and strong, and that Africans were foolish and only comparable to apes.
Decades after the colonizers left, the ideology still runs deep within Africa, although not always readily apparent. The instances of racism targeting black people in and out of Africa, as well as the increasing westernization of Africa, have continued to fuel the ideology’s continuing existence.
Skin bleaching pills and creams thrive despite FDA efforts.
Ms. Zakaru, a 23-year-old hairdresser in Accra, Ghana, says she will continue to use skin bleaching prodcuts because Ghanaian men only want light-skinned girls. Mr. Nkrumah, a government officer tasked with implementing the FDA ban in Ghana, expressed with delight that this 3-year-old daughter was “luckily lighter than [him].”
Though Mr. Nkrumah’s statement was likely made without bad intentions, it acknowledged the reality that dark skin is still perceived as inferior. As a result expectant women are oblivious of the dangers they expose themselves to by taking bleaching pills in the hope that their kids will be born with the ‘superior’ skin tone.