What African beauty brands come to mind when you think skin care? For the African Ladybrille reader, your answer better not be “Lux”, “Venus De Milo” or “The bleaching creams my aunts or mom uses.” Skincare is an issue Africa’s Fashion &/Beauty industries really need to nip in the bud. Over and over again, we observe beautiful African women, from those on the streets to the big screen who’ve got no clue about skincare.
While South Africa [SA]’s beauty industry is saturated with few local beauty companies and products from overseas such as L’oreal and Revlon, the rest of Africa seems silent on the beauty/skin care issue. Walk the streets in African countries and you are bound to see overwhelming amount of beautiful African women with really bad skin. From street chic to A-list actresses, most are clueless on how to take the skin care battle head on. Rashes on the face, zits/acne, uneven skin tone, dry or extremely oily skin among many skin dramas are truthfully issues that these gorgeous sisters should not have to deal with. While skin care involves body and facial care, my emphasis is on the face; and skin care does not translate to use of bleaching creams.
Speaking of bleaching creams, there is a big obsession with lighter skin among our African ‘sistas,’ especially those in the age bracket of 35-50, which also affects the perception of what skin care is. It appears the age group of 18-30 have moved or are moving past the drama of not loving their black skin. But, there exists a lack of real interest with Africa’s beauty/fashion industry to develop beauty products that work well with African skin and encourage young African women to be confident in their skin. A throwback to one of my experiences in the 80s might illustrate my point. During the 80s, I lived in Nigeria. I recall that skin care was limited to use of a soap called “Lux.”
Also, to the degree there was any kind of face care, it was via bleaching creams such as “Venus De Milo.” I recall a gorgeous beauty we children fondly called, “Aunty Stella.” Aunty Stella had the most beautiful brown skin tone. But, she obviously didn’t care for it as she literally bleached the pigmentation right off! Once she started with the bleaching cream, her skin took on a life of its own with an infinite amount of blackheads/zits and dark spots all over her face. There was also another beauty who lived in the neighborhood. Her name escapes me. Back then, Jerry Curls was the “in” thing and she rocked it! Her fashion styling was also superb and her skin tone was more like that of the late R &B singer Aaliyah. But, nameless neighbor later decided she wanted to practice skincare oshi [foolishness]. From beautiful, she transitioned to, literally and no pun intended, Michael Jackson’s current look with a really bad case of black pimples/zits all across her face. Her face, knuckles and feet had black blotchy patches and for us kids, it was scary to observe. I also recall going to the markets or special events from weddings to naming ceremonies and noticing the feet of fashion forward women with the same issues nameless neighbor had.
Beauties like Aunty Stella and the nameless neighbor were uneducated about the risk of skin cancer, kidney damage, blotchy and dry skin due to the high[15-25% or more] hydroquinone and mercury levels in these bleaching creams. They thought black skin was ugly and that served as the incentive to bleach the blackness off! Thankfully, the 21st century has brought a new set of fashion-forward women that are confident in their skin. Also, countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana have been proactive in protecting these African beauties by banning bleaching creams with hydroquinone levels that exceed 2%. Nevertheless, skin care is still not emphasized and there is still a large group of women that equate skin care and beauty with bleaching creams or have no clue about skin care. African and Western owned companies like Iman and Nyakio, in the United States, I believe, should be at the forefront of taking their beauty products into distribution in Africa, not just SA, as well as creating training schools/workshops on skin care [diet, water intake, proper sanitation of beauty tools and discarding of expired beauty products, among other lessons]. Of course, if companies like Revlon and L’oreal also want to do that, no problem. But, our Ladybrille African beauties are just as capable and should step to the plate in creating skin care for the African woman.
~By Uduak Oduok