'I want to become whiter because it's so pretty': the rise of skin-whitening in Senegal

Screengrab from special report on skin-whitening practices in Senegal.
Screengrab from special report on skin-whitening practices in Senegal. FRANCE 24

Skin-whitening is big business in Senegal, with many women choosing to ignore the health risks in the pursuit of lighter skin. FRANCE 24 reports on this dangerous beauty treatment.


In Senegal, the promotion of skin-bleaching is illegal under the national press code. The country’s media watchdog has warned radio and television stations against broadcasting advertisements for skin-whitening products.

However, no laws presently exist to regulate the sale of the products, which remain popular amongst women despite posing potential health risks.

Most of these products are made using corticosteroids and hydroquinone (illegal in the European Union), compounds that are harmful and carcinogenic when applied in significant doses on skin. Regular use leads to itching, varicose veins, and stains, but also to a strong dependence due to the products' penetration into the bloodstream.

Skin depigmentation is common in Africa, where the sale of skin-whitening products is legal in many countries.

Women resort to using the creams out of aesthetic concerns based on the idea that fairer skin leads to greater social and economic success.

Click on the player above to watch the report by Sarah Sakho and Emmanuelle Landais.

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