Skin bleaching is the lightening of the skin through the use of chemical products. People of all ages, races, complexions, and social class participate in this global practice regardless of gender or level of education. Nigerian is experiencing epidemic numbers related to skin lightening. The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates 77% of women in Nigeria use skin-lightening products being the highest in the world.
In some of the parts of the world, it is believed that light and pale skinned people portray beauty, richness and success as well. In some parts, dark complexioned people are considered to be below standard and so people opt for skin whitening or bleaching creams, pills and other chemical products. Ironically, while some dark-skinned people want to lighten their complexion, many fair-skinned people go to great length to get a deep tan. Hence, the world health Organization recommends strengthening the message of contentment with natural skin colour. 
Against this background, NOIPolls conducted its recent poll on skin bleaching to seek the views of Nigerians regarding the predominance, possible reasons and the negative effects of skin bleaching.
Respondents to the poll were asked six specific questions. The first question sought the opinions of Nigerians regarding skin colour attraction. Respondents were asked: Do you agree or disagree that light-skinned people are more attractive than dark-skinned people? Findings revealed that the overall majority (55%; 35%+20%) disagree that light-skinned people are more attractive than dark-skinned people. Furthermore, 32% (17%+15%) of the respondents are in agreement with this assertion, while 13% are neutral since they neither agree nor disagree.
Furthermore, in order to understand how predominant skin bleaching is in Nigeria, respondents were asked: In your opinion, how predominant is skin bleaching in Nigeria? Overall, majority (64%) of respondents are of the opinion that skin bleaching is highly predominant, 31% of the respondents say it is somewhat predominant, while 5% claim it’s not predominant at all. Overall, 96% of respondents acknowledge the predominance of skin bleaching in Nigeria (64% + 31%).
Further analysis by geo-political zones shows that the North-East zone (76%) had the highest proportion of respondents that affirm that it is highly predominant. In addition, the South-West zone (47%) had the highest proportion of respondents that state skin bleaching is somewhat predominant while the South-South zone 9% had the highest proportion of respondents that say it is not predominant at all. Similarly, more female respondents acknowledge the high predominance of skin bleaching (69%) more than male respondents (58%).
To ascertain the group of individuals amongst who skin bleaching is mostly predominant, respondents were asked: Amongst what group of individuals do you think skin bleaching is mostly predominant? The findings on the predominance of skin bleaching based on gender points out that majority of Nigerians (97%) irrespective of geo-political zones attest that skin bleaching is mostly predominant amongst the female Nigerians while only 3% of respondents affirm that it is mostly predominant amongst male Nigerians.
Analysis on the predominance of skin bleaching amongst different age groups shows that 48% of Nigerians believe skin bleaching is mostly predominant amongst Nigerians within the age group of 18–25 years; this is followed by 43% of the respondents who say it is most common among those aged between 25-40 years. Furthermore, while 5% attribute it to those below 18 years, 4% say it is mostly common amongst Nigerians aged between 41-60 years.
From the geo-political zone perspective, the North-West zone (68%) had the highest percentage of respondents that attribute skin bleaching to Nigerians between the age group of 18-25 years. In addition, the South-South zone (58%)
The fourth question sought the views of Nigerians regarding the hazards associated with skin bleaching. Respondents were asked: Are you aware there are negative effects of skin bleaching? In response to this question, the overall majority (83%) acknowledge that there are negative effects associated with skin bleaching. Comparatively, only 17% of the respondents claim there are no negative effects to skin bleaching.
Subsequently, in order to ascertain the thoughts of Nigerians regarding the negative effects of skin bleaching, respondents were asked: In your opinion, what are the negative effects associated with skin bleaching? Overall, the majority (35%) identified “skin cancer” as the negative effect skin bleaching; followed by 25% who indicated “skin damage”. Furthermore, other negative effects of skin bleaching identified by respondents include: “skin wrinkling” 7%; “skin irritation/rashes” 7%; “skin discoloration” 6%; “hindrance to medical treatment” 5%; “body odor” 5%; “skin infection/diseases” 4%; and “skin tinning” 4% and “skin aging” 2%
From the geo-political zones perspective, the South-West zone (42%) had the highest proportion of respondents that believe it is associated with skin cancer and the North-West zones had the highest (42%) proportion of Nigerians who indicated skin damage. Also, the South-West zone (14%) represented the majority of respondents that say “skin wrinkling”.
Finally, in order to seek public opinion on why people engage in skin lightening despite its effect, respondents were asked: Why do people still engage in skin bleaching despite its negative effects? Overall, the majority (35%) suggest that despite the negative effects of skin bleaching people engage in skin bleaching because they want “to look beautiful”; followed by the need “to look attractive for the opposite sex” 32%. Other negative causes identified include: “ignorance of the side effects” 20%; “to be fashionable” 8% and “inferiority complex” 4%.
Analysis based on geo-political zone reveals that the North-Central zone (43%) has the highest proportion of Nigerians that indicated “to look beautiful”; while the North-East zone (45%) accounts for the highest proportion of respondents that indicated “to look attractive” as reasons why people engage In skin bleaching despite its negative effects. In addition, the highest proportion of respondents that say “ignorance of the side effects” was from the South-West zone with 27%. In addition, it was observed that more female respondents (40%) identified the need to look beautiful; while more male respondents (33%) identified the need to look attractive to the opposite sex, as the reason why people still engage in skin bleaching.
In conclusion, the findings from this current poll have revealed that 64% of Nigerians are of the opinion that skin bleaching has become highly predominant in country, especially amongst Nigerian females (97%). The poll further revealed that despite the negative effects of skin bleaching, people still engage in the practice of skin bleaching because they want to “look beautiful” (35%) and to “look attractive to the opposite sex” (32%). In addition, respondents identified some of the negative effects associated with skin bleaching to include “skin cancer” (35%) and “skin damage” (25%). Skin bleaching was also reported as being mostly predominant amongst Nigerians within the age groups of 18–25 years (48%) and 26-40 years (43%). Finally, public enlightenment championed by health campaigners may be a key to highlighting the negative effects of skin bleaching and re-orientating the public about contentment with their natural skin colour; particularly amongst youths of between ages 18 – 25 years, campaigns across tertiary institutions may be organised. However, we do understand that for some Nigerians, the perceived benefits of beauty and attraction may outweigh the actual risks of skin bleaching, thus supporting Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which highlights that certain attitudes are motivated by the need “to belong”, gain self-esteem and confidence in the society.
The opinion poll was conducted in February 3rd to 5th 2014. It involved telephone interviews of a random nationwide sample. 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geopolitical zones in the country, were interviewed. With a sample of this size, we can say with 95% confidence that the results obtained are statistically precise – within a range of plus or minus 3%. NOIPolls Limited, No1 for country specific polling services in West Africa, which works in technical partnership with the Gallup Organisation (USA), to conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria. More information is available at www.noi-polls.com
This press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the general public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as author whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited or published.
NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect its views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or fact or for any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken as a result of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions or views herein constitute a judgment as at the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls’ current findings and/or thinking.