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Ahoofe Kasa!: Skin Bleaching and the Function of Beauty Among Ghanaian Women

Yaba Amgborale Blay


Globally, the practice of skin bleaching has reached pandemic proportions, and in Ghana, the focus of the current research, upwards of 30% of the female population currently actively bleaches. Medical professionals and public commentators all agree that the desire to be seen as beautiful motivates the practice. Advancing the popular Ghanaian aphorism “ahoofe kasa,” which means literally “beauty talks,” this article explores the politics of beauty among women in Ghana, particularly those who currently use or at one time have used skin lightening agents. More specifically, the study relies primarily upon qualitative data to investigate the relationship between gender, skin bleaching, light skin, and beauty. Although the participants interviewed indeed express that their use of skin lightening agents is fueled by their desire to be perceived as more noticeably beautiful, critical analysis of the data reveals that what they are seeking is not an arbitrary beauty, but one that is functional and materializes via light skin. In this way, beauty via light skin as gained through skin bleaching allows participants access to social capital, and for many, their newfound light skin color becomes a bartering tool negotiable for economic capital.


Skin bleaching, beauty, social capital, gender, Ghana

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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