Skin Bleaching in Ghana "When You Are Light-Skinned, You Earn More"

A legacy of the colonial mindset, the market for skin-lightening products is booming in Ghana, with even some international conglomerates pushing bleaching creams. But the side effects can be deadly.
By Anne Backhaus und Ella Okunmwendia in Accra, Ghana
Light skin as a beauty ideal: In Ghana and several other African countries, dangerous skin-bleaching products are a billion-dollar business.

Light skin as a beauty ideal: In Ghana and several other African countries, dangerous skin-bleaching products are a billion-dollar business.

Foto: SIMON MAINA/ AFP
Global Societies Pfeil nach rechts
All Articles Pfeil nach rechts
Regina Nettey in her neighborhood. For five years, she has regularly been lightening her skin in the hopes of getting a better life.

Regina Nettey in her neighborhood. For five years, she has regularly been lightening her skin in the hopes of getting a better life.

Foto:

Anne Backhaus/ DER SPIEGEL

The 22-year-old Nettey sometimes skips meals to save money for her bleaching cream.

The 22-year-old Nettey sometimes skips meals to save money for her bleaching cream.

Foto:

Anne Backhaus/ DER SPIEGEL

Ad billboard in one of Accra's main roads: Most products are advertised with models who have lighter skin.

Ad billboard in one of Accra's main roads: Most products are advertised with models who have lighter skin.

Foto:

Anne Backhaus/ DER SPIEGEL

Instagram saleswoman Farcadi hasn't had her bleaching products licensed yet. "Most customers see my skin and want to look like that too, that is the best advertising," says the 25-year-old.

Instagram saleswoman Farcadi hasn't had her bleaching products licensed yet. "Most customers see my skin and want to look like that too, that is the best advertising," says the 25-year-old.

Foto:

Anne Backhaus/ DER SPIEGEL

Dermatologist Edmund Delle is an expert on skin damage and cancer that has been caused by bleaching. He has been fighting against skin-lightening for decades.

Dermatologist Edmund Delle is an expert on skin damage and cancer that has been caused by bleaching. He has been fighting against skin-lightening for decades.

Foto:

Anne Backhaus/ DER SPIEGEL

"We don't need bans, we need education. Nobody should buy these products anymore"

Edmund Delle, dermatologist

Delle shows his patient's damaged skin. The 55-year-old wanted to look "better and fresher," and therefore applied bleaching cream to her entire body. She didn't know how damaging this can be for her skin.

Delle shows his patient's damaged skin. The 55-year-old wanted to look "better and fresher," and therefore applied bleaching cream to her entire body. She didn't know how damaging this can be for her skin.

Foto:

Anne Backhaus/ DER SPIEGEL

Bleaching products are available everywhere, like here in the Makola Market in Accra.

Bleaching products are available everywhere, like here in the Makola Market in Accra.

Foto:

Anne Backhaus/ DER SPIEGEL

"The desire for lighter skin runs deep. As long as many people feel that way and buy these products, they will continue to exist"

Emmanuel Nkrumah, FDA

This piece is part of the Global Societies series. The project runs for three years and is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mehr lesen über