A dermatologist at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Dr. Nike Omotoyosi, has said Nigeria has the highest number of people who indulge in skin bleaching.
Delivering a lecture entitled, "The Harmful Effects of Skin Bleaching," yesterday in Ilorin at a Lenten season programme, organised by the wife of Kwara State governor, Mrs. Omolewa Ahmed, the dermatologist stated that the rate of skin cancer and other kidney diseases was on the rise due to bleaching.
"Nigeria is the foremost country where people bleach their skin in the whole world due to the negative effects of advertisements on billboards where white skinned women are portrayed as beautiful.
"There is the misconception that only fair people are beautiful. As such, those with dark skin would want to attract the opposite sex by removing the dark spot using different chemicals to bleach," a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted her as saying.
Omotoyosi, who noted that some were lured into bleaching due to societal pressure, added that the trend was now popular with men. Bleaching, according to her, reduces melanin, a pigment of the skin. According to her, melanin protects the skin from the harsh rays of the sun while acting as a protective agent against cancer and other dangerous skin diseases.
She said active bleaching agents and chemicals found in most Nigerian markets were hydroquinone, mercury and steroids.
"Many countries, including Nigeria, have banned the use of these active ingredients in cosmetics but bleaching still persists in this country," Omotoyosi said.
She said other side effects of bleaching included burns, dark nails, permanent luekodermia, easy bruising, stretch marks, recurrent skin infections, dermatitis, pimples breakout and onchronosis.
"Mercury poisoning on its own causes severe nerve problems, movement disorders, hearing impairment, kidney damage and psychiatric disorders," the dermatologist added.
Omotoyosi, however, recommended sensitisation of the public on the dangers of bleaching while also advocating the use of moisturisers and sunscreen cream.
She further called on government to check advertisement copies , which portray the black race in negative light, saying "Black is beautiful." .