Get Light or Die Trying

Last week’s post “Skin Bleaching, Self-Hatred and Colonial Mentality” generated LOTS of conversation on the web. What is surprising to me is the fact that many people have never heard of skin bleaching. Borrowing from my research on skin bleaching in Ghana, this week’s post “Get Light or Die Trying” is a brief introduction of sorts to the global phenomenon…


In November 1997, a 58-year old retired female clerical worker presented to the Dermatology Outpatient Clinic of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana “with complaints of dark patches on light-exposed areas of the face, arms, neck, hands, legs and feet of about 10 years duration” as well as a large fungating ulcer on the right side of her neck. Despite a continuous regime of treatment spanning the course of 14 months, her condition failed to improve. In February 1999, the patient died. The cause of death — sun-related squamous cell carcinoma with pulmonary metastasis precipitated by the habitual application of hydroquinone and later steroid-containing creams. Translated – this Ghanaian woman’s death was caused by a type of skin cancer, which later spread to her lungs, and was attributed to her ritual practice of skin bleaching for more than 20 years of her adult life.

female clerical worker2
(Addo, 2000, 144)

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