A survey conducted in South Africa’s administrative capital Pretoria showed that 35% of women use them.
Demand is also high in Ghana, Tanzania and Kenya where buoyant economies and advertising have targeted young women of marriageable age.
In Mali and Senegal, the terms “caco” and “xeesal” are used while in Ghana, the term “nensoebenis” describes the condition of the skin after chronic skin lightener use.
With its political overtones, South Africa has a distinctive history with skin lighteners. In isi Xhosa it is known as “ukutsheyisa” which means “to chase beauty”.
It became the fourth most commonly used household product after soap, tea and tinned milk.