Women are going to great expense as well as inconvenience and sometimes even pain, plus risking their future health as they go to extreme measures in their quest for beauty.
And as a result, the trade in skin lighteners – some of them known to be dangerous when used long term – is growing in the province.
As more women use the different products available, so people are cashing in on the opportunity to make money from their desperation.
The women who use the products say that as long as they are available, they will continue to use them in their efforts to be seen as beautiful alongside their lighter-skinned sisters.
The most popular bleaching creams on the market are Caro white cream, Clair cream, Pawpaw cream, Lemonvate and Movate creams.
According to Silindile Masinga, bleaching is a deep issue for her. While growing up she was bullied a lot because her skin was darker skin than most other children.
“I was never told that I was beautiful and those kids who had light skin were getting the all the compliments. My nickname was ‘Night’ and my uncle always used to joke with my mother, asking ‘Why can’t you use Jik on her, because with her skin Jik can do wonders’.”
Masinga said these kinds of regular comments led her to grow up with low self-esteem
“In my teen years my friends introduced me the different bleaching products, and ever since that time I have been using them.”
Several women interviewed in a random survey said they did not like using skin bleaching products because they did not like the smell of the creams. But others who admitted to using them said they believed that putting up with the smell was worth it.
Women visit doctors for injections
Busisiwe Maziya, a mother of teenage daughters, said: “If our kids are constantly watching TV and see women with light skins being portrayed as beautiful, what chance do we have to try and change their minds? With my daughters, I noticed them starting to develop an interest in skin lightening products because all their favorite famous people were ones with light skins. It really worries me, because I think that they will not be able to see themselves as beautiful with their dark skin. What will happen to them in future?”
Some women visit doctors or pharmacists for injections, for which they pay anything from R50 to R150.
“I spend more money on bleaching products than anything else because I have not yet got the results I want,” said Ntuli.
Though these products can cause serious damage to the skin in the long term, they remain popular with women who ignore the dangers and continue to use them.
According to Ayanda Zitha, the results are good in the beginning, prompting women to use them continuously in the hope that the initial good results will continue.
“I have stopped using the products because my skin started to peel and after a few months. It started to go darker again – like I was burnt by fire,” said Zitha.
The owner of Family Shop in Ermelo said skin bleaching products were in high demand at the store. He said even though women appeared not to be happy with the results, they were determined to continue using the creams.
A woman who lives in a location in Ermelo, who asked not to be named, said she works at a pharmacy as a packer where she steals vitamin pills and vitamin B injections. She makes money by offering women these injections for R40, even though she has never been trained how to inject.
“But to these desperate women, it doesn’t matter,” she said.
One of her customers, Prudence Ngobeni, said the injections she received were extremely painful, but she chose to have them “because I want to be beautiful”.
Another woman who sells skin bleaching products said she was feeding her family of seven by making regular trips to Johannesburg to buy products cheaply, and then sell them in Ermelo for a profit.
“I started selling these products a year ago because people asked me to buy for them in Johannesburg because it was too far for them to go and buy,” said Rose Simelane, who makes the trip once a month. And while demand remains high, she has no intention of stopping. – Health-e News
An edited version of this story was also published in Health24