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“Tsada Getzu, Tsada Libu (White Face, White Heart)”: An Exploration of Skin Lightening in Eritrea

Tsada Getzu, Tsada Libu (White Face, White Heart)”:
An Exploration of Skin Lightening in Eritrea
Dr. Fikrejesus Amahazion
10 January 2018

NOTE: The following is an abstract of a newly published article on skin lightening in Eritrea, a topic of increasing importance and great relevance in the country, particularly amongst adolescents and youth. While a growing body of literature has explored skin lightening around the world, increasing understanding, to date, there have been no formal studies investigating skin lightening in Eritrea. Accordingly, my recent research helps to fill the void by exploring the practice of skin lightening in Eritrea, and also examining attitudes, knowledge, and perceptions surrounding the practice.


A centuries old practice, skin lightening is the use of injections, topical ointments, creams, lotions, gels, soaps, oral formulations, and household chemicals to de-pigment or lighten skin complexion, produce an even skin tone, and remove blemishes, freckles, or scars (de Souza 2008: 28; Jablonski 2012; Street, Gaska, Lewis, and Wilson 2014: 53). Today, skin lightening is a multi-billion dollar, globalized industry, and over the past several decades it has emerged as an increasingly popular practice in many parts of the world (Charles 2003; Coopernov 2016; Glenn 2008). This paper represents the first analysis of skin lightening within Eritrea, a young, developing country located in the Horn of Africa. Interviews, focus group discussions, and survey questionnaires with informants from across Eritrea suggest skin lightening is increasingly popular in Eritrea and many individuals, particularly females, engage in the practice. Results suggest those engaging in skin lightening primarily use creams, lotions, soaps, and homemade mixes consisting of natural ingredients. As with many other countries, skin lightening in Eritrea is associated with a number of different factors. There is an important need for national policymakers to consider enacting legislation or developing guidelines to regulate skin lightening products and their ingredients, while it is also necessary to increase public awareness of the significant health risks associated with the use of lightening products.

Amahazion, F. 2017. “'Tsada Getzu, Tsada Libu (White Face, White Heart)'”: An Exploration of Skin Lightening in Eritrea." Journal of Pan African Studies. 11(1): 236-260.

Full article is available from The Journal of Pan African Studies (California, USA), through

About The Journal of Pan African Studies
The Journal of Pan African Studies works to become a beacon of light in the sphere of African world community studies and research, grounded in a trans-disciplinary open-access scholarly peer-reviewed construct, simultaneously cognizant of the multilingualism of our audience, and the importance of universal access in cyberspace; regardless of geography, economic, social or cultural diversity.

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