The Kenya Forum | The obsession and dangers associated with skin lightening creams - The Kenya Forum

January 9, 2013


The obsession and dangers associated with skin lightening creams. Light skin has long been the beauty ideal. It is a dangerous obsession.

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The obsession and dangers associated with skin lightening creams

The obsession and dangers associated with skin lightening creams

Any woman who has walked along Mombasa House at the junction of Muindi Mbingu and Monrovia Streets is probably familiar with this phrase; “Karibu mafuta mrembo” (“Welcome for some beauty cream beautiful”), a common phrase that is usually uttered by skin-lightening cream sales girls aiming to lure women to purchase their paraphernalia.

Looking at the girls, most of whom you can tell come from a community known to be blessed with much skin colour compared to the rest, one would be amazed by their light skin tones.

If you happen to be observant you will realise that most of these women have different skin tones all over their bodies. The face is light in complexion but the arms look like they don’t belong to the same body in most cases. That’s because you can only bleach yourself at strategic parts of your body and that only happens on the face, there is nothing much you can do about your hands and legs.


But why all this trouble just for a light skin one might wonder?

Well, a light skin complexion has for a long time now been presumed to be the ideal. That’s why most of the top requirements on all casting calls for TV commercials are normally seeking for light complexioned girls.

Think about it: most of the prime TV anchors on our screens are light skinned and although producers and directors have been criticised for placing such emphasis on the complexion, the excuse being, as a renowned casting director in Kenya’s modelling fraternity was once quoted as commenting on the subject, “well, truth be told light skin complexion is more camera friendly”.


Sometimes back, popular award winning singer Wahu Kagwi posed the same question on her fan page on Facebook.

“When I was growing up, the definition of a “pretty girl’ was ‘light skin with long hair’. Everything in the media pointed towards this. Being dark skinned, I had obvious self confidence issues, but thankfully, I’m over it. To date, however, it is still a common perception that the lighter you are, the prettier you are. What do you think? Are light skinned girls prettier than dark skinned girls? And why do you think so?”

What followed of course was a series of comments with each fan giving their opinions but a good number of men were of the view that light complexion gives a girl an edge over her dark complexioned counterpart.

So the mentality lingers on that a light skinned complexion is much prettier than dark skin and that is why dark skinned women are putting their health at risk day in day out just to gain a fairer complexion from any available skin lightening creams in the market.


Women have, however, been warned of harmful creams being smuggled in Kenya from Uganda. The creams are believed to contain hydroquinone and mercury which can cause kidney failure among other complications. Caro light cream, Maxi Claire and Peau Claire have been cited as some of the popular harmful creams currently on the market.

What was wrong with “Black is beautiful”, asks the Kenya Forum?


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