Skin bleaching in Zimbabwe: What went wrong?


I recently bumped into an old friend of mine and they had changed. Still the same Paida but somewhat hollow and empty, her once hearty laugh now sounded like a drunk man’s guffaw and that lazy smile l so remember suddenly looked so sly and the way her once calm eyes now were darting everywhere away from me.

Skin bleaching in Zimbabwe

Something huge had changed. I could feel it before my eyes finally captured it. I felt the huge shift in her spirit as a whole and my mind told me that something had happened in the years we had not met. It's like when someone had been sick for a while and they regain their health but they are still not okay. I wanted to ask what happened?

But l was afraid she would think l was talking about her skin which l think is a bad decision made after whatever happened to her.Skin bleaching is defined as a cosmetic process using synthetic or natural substances or mixtures, or treatments such as lasers or chemical peels, to physically lighten a person's skin tone, either to reduce dark areas of skin or to achieve an overall paler skin tone. 

The number of African women who are bleaching their skin has drastically risen and it seems okay and none of your business when someone next door does it but wait till you wake up one day and see your aunt, brother and in this case old friend looking white.

You ask yourself what went wrong? What changed? Have you ever looked at someone and just felt sad, l think the way l felt is the same way the Holy Spirit feels when we grieve him. You want to sit them down and ask why but you cannot because its their body and their rules and you are not that close anyway. 

Deep down l believe the reasons behind skin bleaching are so many but l would like to think that most people’s decision to bleach is influenced by the intrinsic factors rather than the opposite and these include:

  • Internalized racism and colorism
  • Low self-esteem and body image issues
  • A desire to fit in with a certain group or community
  • A belief that lighter skin will lead to greater opportunities or social acceptance
  • Fear of discrimination or prejudice due to darker skin tones.

And of all these, low self esteem seem to be the top motivator and it does not happen in a day no, it stems from childhood, how a person was brought up and what the definition of beauty was in their childhood.

When people feel like they don't measure up to societal beauty standards or feel like they're not valued or respected because of their skin tone, it can lead to a feeling of inadequacy and the desire to change their appearance. 

It's like a vicious cycle – the more they try to change their appearance, the more it reinforces the idea that there's something wrong with them.

According to a 2011 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), 77% of Nigerian women, 59% of Togolese women, 35% of South African women and 27% of Senegalese women use skin-lightening products. In Zimbabwe, the exact figures are unknown, but the practice is common among both men and women.

Did you know some organizations hire light girls only here in Zimbabwe?

The light girls that serenade the music videos and not forgetting the ads young women and children see on a daily.

At the end of the day, they tend to think light is the definition of beauty but it comes at a cost. Where are we losing it? What went wrong?

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