Women brave side-effects of skin lightening creams for beauty

By Shamiso Chigonde

They say beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and it has been like that for centuries. Why cant beauty be determined by the bearer of that beauty?

Light skinned and curvy women have been labelled beautiful and put in the “attractive” category. How and why is the dark skinned woman defined as "ugly" or not meeting the standards of what is deemed beautiful?

Musicians have released songs about yellow bones and “heavy machines” as the curvy are now called. This has led to many women resorting to skin lightening creams and pills or injections so that they can fit into the mould of beauty too.

There is a great divide in the debate about use of these lotions. One group is advocating for the black woman to be proud of her dark skin and not use skin altering products.

On the other hand is a group that says; a woman is free to beautify herself in any way she deems suitable for her. They argue that the woman has power over her body and therefore should do what feels right by her.

Amakhosikazi interviewed Tafadzwa Musarurwa, a teen life coach, who says women who make use of these creams are no different from others instead they are courageous.

"I think they are just normal people who are a little brave than the ordinary in that they forego the risks and consequences of such action and just do something to enhance their beauty," says Musarurwa.

He adds that “whether you put make up or bleach, I feel the premise is the same, just that others are more daring.”

The 21st century has seen a rise in the use of carolite, movet and many other skin lightening lotions, with some who cannot afford to buy full body lotions lightening the face only resulting in different skin tones.

Though there are a lot of side effects related to these different lotions and pills one never gives up in their search for recognition and beauty according to the world's standards.

There is also a rise in interest for products such as the so-called Indian sweets. Those selling it allege that it has no side effects.

"Our products are shipped straight from India and they are used in many countries, I have sold to a lot of customers here in the Midlands and I have not heard any complaints so far. Our products are 100 percent natural and they are not just sweets, we have herbs and lotions," says Primrose Nyatanga who sells beauty enhancing products in Gweru.

A local doctor who cannot be named for professional reasons has a different opinion on the issue. He says although he is not sure about the ingredients used in making these products, using such products could be harmful.

“Maybe it is time we invested time in finding natural products that enhance the complexion and promote hair growth so that we don’t use synthetic products that surely have damaging consequences on our health,” says the doctor.

He concurs with Musarurwa by saying that society thinks that women bleach or use enhancers because they lack self confidence and wish to be who they are not.

According to a South African documentary A Gentle Magic - titled after the face lightening cream - many of the women (and a few men) that the filmmakers interviewed, started using skin-lightening products as a way to combat oily skin or pimples – not as a way to make their skins look lighter.

It is reported that by 2027, the beauty cream industry would be a R130 Billion industry as the demand for the products keeps on increasing by day.

The producers of the documentary say this demand has led to manufacturers breaking the law and using banned ingredients like mercury.

Last year at the premier of The Gentle Magic at the New York African Festival one of the film directors, Lerato Mbangeni said they were shocked to find out how companies were manipulating natural ingredients, like liquorice and lemon, to bypass laws.