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Vera Sidika's impact on bleaching (Kutoa Tint) in Kenya, alternatives

09 June 2014, 20:55 Shakila Alivitsa

Nairobi - Over the past couple of weeks, there has been heated debate on ‘skin lighting’, better known as ‘bleaching’ to the laymen or as others would prefer ‘kutoa tint’ on social media, sparked by well known socialite Vera Sidika’s overly dramatic change in skin tone.

It all begs the question, is it worth the money, time and especially ‘hate’ (refer to Kenyans on Twitter KOT and Kenyans on Facebook KOF) to go to these extreme lengths in an effort to enhance your looks? Putting Vera on the spot, is she a better looking lass because of having her tint removed? I can bet you half the guys I know prefer Vera post tint rather than pre-tint.

As a woman though, I know the fuss that surrounds taking the ‘tint off’ because there are several alternatives, like simply applying makeup (Agree boys?).

Yet at the end of the day, we have to face reality as it is quite hypocritical for the KOT and KOF to bombard sweet Vera with criticism just because she has hit the headlines (Post tint) because there are a lot of women who do it here in Kenya.

River road ‘beauticians’ are testament to this.

Anne, 48, is a building contractor and spends most of her day out in the sun braving the elements, so being a woman of today, she has to stay gorgeous. She thus uses a common product known as Caro Lite which she picks up from a vendor in Nairobi’s River Road. To enhance performance, she adds in some vitamin capsules and that does the job for her.

“I know what people perceive of bleaching products but for me it is more about ensuring my skin stays intact after a long day of work. What would you do if you were me? I cannot afford expensive products. At the end of the day, I have to look good, the mother of three says.

As confirmed by a study carried out KM AlGhamdi of the Dermatology department of the King Saud University, Bleaching agents are not a recent phenomenon but have been in existence for centuries. They are embraced by Asian and African women of a darker tone to achieve a fairer skin tone as it is seen as a testament of beauty as well as heightened social class. So yes KOT and KOF, they are used the world over.

In the same study, they state that a number of complications have been observed on the users of such products, ranging from diabetes mellitus to renal problems due to misuse. Most of the users are already aware that the products contain harmful substances such as mercury, corticosteroids and hydroquinone.  

When I ask Anne  if she is aware and if so, afraid of the long term effects of the above named components, she explains herself by stating that she is an on and off user so the risk of greater harm is reduced. What she is not aware of is that at times when you stop using these products; it ends up damaging your skin further due to withdrawal.

Kim, 22, has a younger sister who was advised to remove tint by an aunt in order to even out her skin tone. Sadly for her, the effect was that her face turned out okay but the rest of the body was as dark as before. Vera’s has turned out nicely, since as she says she got a professional do it (Who knows), but that was at top-dollar. It is estimated that such procedures can cost up to as much as 100,000 US dollars (KES 8.5 million) yes...  A house, a car and change… But how many women can afford to do that in Kenya?

Some of the long –term side effects of using such creams are not confined to the skin only but can go deeper. Dr AlGhamdi states that toxicity from mercury can cause psychiatric and neurological problems, renal impairment and paradoxical increase in skin pigmentation. This is due to the fact that the daily uptake from skin absorption is 20 times more than that taken from FOOD!

This is why; the ‘toa tint’ crew will suffer from obesity, hypertension and diabetes mellitus as confirmed by the same study. In layman's terms, you risk messing with your nerves, and may end up in Mathare.

But some still risk it.

If you are hell bent on bleaching your skin, there are natural ways to do so, not that they completely change your skin tone, but even it out and make it fairer. And for the faint hearted, you had better know that it is HARD WORK, and PATIENCE. No church in the wild and stuff…


Works very well for uneven skin tone, it helps generate new skin cells when applied as a mask for at least 30 minutes, and you can also buy the gel in supermarkets if you cannot find the plant


Due to its antibacterial properties, it can help fade age spots and acne scars as well as act as a moisturizing agent. Dry skin also contributes to uneven skin which honey can help remedy. Combined with sugar and applied as a mask for a few minutes then washed off, removes dead cells.


This is a common one, die to its acidic properties/Vitamin C. Like coffee grinds, they have anti-oxidants that are good for the skin complexion. Can be used with a variety of substances such as lukewarm water to create a mask. Both to lighten skin as well as even out your skin tone. Oranges can also be used


Has lactic acid which can be used as ‘bleaching’ agent. Can be used on its own as a mask or can be added to other ingredients such as honey and lemon.

The much harder ones are drinking a lot of water which many people do not like. Its main benefit is it helps in elimination of waste in the body and preventing dehydration of the skin. A proper diet will also help especially if it comprises of a lot of fibre, greens, nuts and the like and less of the fatty foods and processed foods.

So yes, you can be a success as Vera Sidika has proven, or it can all fall apart. It’s the risk you take when it comes to ‘kutoa tint’, just like life is I guess..

All the best.

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