Kenyan Women Are Getting Skin-Bleaching Injections to Attract Men
Reported by Kacie Whaley
Skin lightening is a taboo phenomenon among non-white people worldwide. From the United States to Jamaica, and even in Asia, there exist men and women who desire light skin. After all, a large percent of the world follows a beauty standard that favors Europeanize features. Recently, Kenya— a country where some of the darkest hues are found— has begun practicing skin-lightening injections.
In Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, there is an area called River Road where bleaching creams are sold. A woman named Rose who runs a skin-bleaching booth revealed to Vice that she illegally injects women with skin-bleaching cream. “The injection lightens you from inside. It makes women clean,” she explained. “If you want an even color and fast results, injecting is much better than a cream.”
The injections cost $70, which, for many Kenyans, amounts to their monthly income. Some of Rose’s typical customers include Indians, Somalis, and even national celebrities.
One of Rose’s clients confirms that the bleaching process is done to achieve a European appearance. “My husband prefers half-caste women to darker girls, and he is proud to be mine when we go to the club,” the client says. “I get far more male attention now I am lighter.”
She claims that it is the men who drive some Kenyan women’s decision to change their pigment. “Nairobi is very competitive and Kenyan men like women with whiter skin.”
Dr. Pranav Pancholi, a Harvard-educated dermatologist who works at Kenya’s Shah Hospital, told Vice that since the injection practice is relatively new, the harmful affects of the procedure are not clear just yet. “The products used on the streets are not used by certified professionals,” he said. “The trade in black market creams and injections is completely unregulated. There is no way of knowing just how dangerous they are.”
Some of the creams contain a high level of mercury, which “inhibits the formation of melanin,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO reports that high-mercury creams can cause kidney damage, skin rashes, discoloration, scarring, the inability of skin to resist infections, and mental illness.
Some creams also contain alpha hydroxy acids, which, as Dr. Pancholi stated, can kill body tissue, “causing flesh to waste away.”