Despite the known dangers of the use of lightening products or depigmentation of the so-called “Xessal” skin, Senegalese women are still large consumers.
Lightening products of all kinds, such as soap, creams or milk, are freely accessible and in large numbers in the streets and on the markets of Senegal. There are nearly 117 products available for sale. This market is generating significant profits and is a very lucrative source of income. Uninformed or unscrupulous sellers surf on a global trend that is in these times of crisis offers an unexpected financial contribution. These sales represent a high health risk because these products are either chemicals that are inappropriate for the skin or pharmaceuticals which should not be used for self-medication. There are currently no laws in Senegal to control or regulate these ointments.
This phenomenon has occurred since the 70s in Dakar sees women using its products for periods of shorter or shorter with the desire to clear up the skin. Their goal is to become “more beautiful”, “to be fashionable” or “to fit into a form of modernity”. These women want from a perspective that seems understandable and should not be stigmatized: “pleasing”.
Unfortunately, these products cause all kinds of dermatological complications such as acne, eczema or hyper pigmentation which often makes the use of addictive lightening products since stopping the product results in the opposite of the expected result.
Other negative effects are known which are observable in a longer time such as diabetes, arterial hypertension resulting from the sugar introduced into the blood by the corticoid present in the creams and inoculated during the regular contact with the skin.
Obstetric complications are also to be deplored. In fact, cases of miscarriage or poisoning of the newborn child were observed. This phenomenon is reinforced by the desire of women to be beautiful and clearer at the great events of life as are, baptism, marriage or the main religious festivals.
Women are therefore the consenting victims of the ideology of “beauty-whiteness” which poses a true ideological question.
This conception is certainly not new and is not the prerogative of black African countries. We deplore that in the world the clarity of the skin remains predominantly that of the canon of beauty and by extension of the masculine desire.
The historical phenomena of domination can be seen as responsible for a whiteness symbol of power and money. The color then becomes a device of social delimitation and therefore a discriminating marker. There is also evidence in India of the will of the male ruling classes to take for wife women with a clear complexion who responds to a symbolic historical delimitation between the white sign of the brahmin and the black sign of the pariah.
Fortunately nowadays the racist theories of delimitation of the black as carrier of vice and animality and therefore of the color like sign of a behavior is no longer.
But this desire for clarity seems to be the unconscious trace that Frantz Fanon calls a devaluation of the image of oneself.
According to the study by Dr. Fatimata Ly of the International Association of Information on Artificial Depigmentation, the panel of 368 women studied in the dermatological health center in Dakar shows no sign of direct depreciation color. Clarity is a sign of urbanity, the most women being from Dakar, modernity in connection with clips and magazines and adult femininity. Often encouraged by their girlfriends, women between 20 and 40 years old try to unify their complexion before even lightening it to be beautiful, follow fashion and please men.
They can not be held personally responsible for a phenomenon that affects all women in the world, which is the change in their appearance.
Women have always used processes of transformation and modification but how far we can understand this change. Since the 1930s, Western women have used tanning as a beauty use that is also safe. Figures such as Beyoncé or Rihanna’s image of success and beauty are models for younger generations who see this chromatic interbreeding as a symbol. There is a tendency towards standardization and standardization, towards a crossbreeding that marks a more serene link between cultures. It is also to a different approach to the other that we are witnessing.
But the danger persists from the global point of view when the human being in the name of social considerations operates to a violent manipulation of oneself different from the feminine habits of the old adage “It is necessary to suffer to be beautiful”.
There are many damages in the world related to cosmetic surgery. Moving from breast augmentation to rhinoplasty to liposuction. Everything is changed to match the criteria of beauty that seems to globalize. These acts as well as the “xessal” are not without danger and can in the most extreme cases lead to death.
A law exists in Senegal to fight against schools, since the use of “xessal” leads to the exclusion of girls.
But the trend seems to be to disinformation or trivialization of this practice.
Many voices protest against this phenomenon but they seem to be a drop in an ocean.