Skin Bleaching in Ghana: The Next Generation?

Six-year-old Cecilia looks up to her older sisters and says she feels good about her skin. "My sisters are beautiful and everybody says we all look alike, so I think I am beautiful too.” Developing a positive self-image starts at home and can have positive effects on young girls. Image by Jessica Edmond. Ghana, 2014.

Eleven-year-old Elizabeth used the skin bleaching cream, Biotone, that she received as a gift from her uncle to help clear the acne she developed on her skin. She was happy that her acne cleared. She noticed her skin seemed smoother and lighter and that made her feel pretty. Elizabeth believes “that if someone tells you something [negative], just tell the person that we each are created by God and I like the way he created me.” Image by Jessica Edmond. Ghana, 2014.

Twenty-seven-year-old youth leader Mabel loves her job at Hillcrest school. She teaches her students to love God and themselves by developing self-esteem: “No matter what you look like on the outside, God judges our beauty [from] the inside.” Mabel believes she is beautiful—the way God made her. Image by Jessica Edmond. Ghana, 2014.

Eleven-year-old Prudence feels very confident in the skin she is in. When asked, "Do you think I am pretty?" she said she likes her skin tone (fair) and that it is what a lot of people like and want. “Fair skin is not as nice as black skin. I am happy with what God gave me.” Being happy with what God gave you seemed to be an ongoing theme for most of the girls interviewed. Image by Jessica Edmond. Ghana, 2014.

Eleven-year-old Gifty states, “I am proud to be a Ghanaian. I like my country… I love it and cherish it.” Her response seemed scripted. When asked what she thought was beautiful, she said “my country.” Some Ghanaian girls are taught to define their identity by their country and not by their own beauty. Image by Jessica Edmond. Ghana, 2014.

Ten-year-old Rebecca believes that the skin that God gave her is beautiful. And that: “Fair people are actually more beautiful." She would feel happier if she had fair skin. The media in Ghana helps perpetuate ideas that fair is better and leaves viewers, especially the youth, to believe that something is wrong with their appearance. Image by Jessica Edmond. Ghana, 2014.

Thirteen-year-old Francisca thinks skin bleaching is a sign of insecurity in females. “Skin bleaching is wrong, and you’re damaging the color that God gave you.” She feels very satisfied with her skin. Image by Jessica Edmond. Ghana, 2014.

Thirteen-year-old Eugenia said “I am happy God has given me such skin because I like my color. I feel my skin is nice.” Edmond asked her why she thought Edmond was a “Bruni,” defined as an American white person. Eugenia said she thought in order to have such fair skin and soft hair one's parents must be white. Edmond explained to her that her ancestors were from Africa. After many generations of slavery there is a huge population of Africans of mixed ancestry who live in America. Image by Jessica Edmond. Ghana, 2014.

Thirteen-year-old Felicia said, “I feel happy about my skin.” She also added that, “Fair skin is beautiful to me, too.” Felicia believes that God made everyone beautiful. She sees beauty in everyone and anything God has made. It was as if she was saying, "Love the skin that you are in." Image by Jessica Edmond. Ghana, 2014.

These portraits were chosen to illustrate the diverse beauty of young Ghanaian girls. The girls were asked, “Do you think you are beautiful?” A few were confident, and several seemed confused or unsure. Their responses show a range of opinion on the subject of skin bleaching, a practice that has been passed down by older generations. It is embraced by some, rejected by others.