Shut up, it’s bleaching not toning – Viola Okolie

Shut up, it’s bleaching not toning – Viola Okolie

“There is something wrong with your face o”.

I know, I thought to myself as my friend peered deeper into my eyeballs, darting her eyes all over my face.

I could tell you the million and one things I also think is “wrong” with my face.

》》Number one: I couldn’t get make up to stay on my face. I don’t know how those ladies who put on a full kabuki mask every morning and make it through the day without so much as a single drop of sweat marring their make up, manage it.


For me, first to go is always the powder. As soon as I am done with painting my face, I suddenly start sweating. Then slowly but surely, the powder starts running down my face like mirinda. Then I will raise my sleeve, or the bottom of my shirt, and run it across my face one split second before remembering I have make-up on.

Okay, half of my “face” now wiped off and managing the other half by keeping my face in profile with the surviving half always turned towards whomever I am with; in the midst of my many many talk talk, my tongue would suddenly reach out and lick my lips one nano-second before I remember I have lipstick on.

Make I “konteeliu”?

So, something must be wrong with the face. That is my excuse for carrying my virgin face everywhere I go.

》》Number 2: My face is not square, not oblong, not round and not spherical. Although that could be because of all the baby fat (considering I am almost 40, I think we can just assume it is “adult” fat and not so much of a baby), which I hope to shed “tomorrow”.

》》Number 3: I have people who saw me last in primary school walk up to me in a crowd of random strangers and recognise me. They will go, “don’t you know me? I used to be a friend to the cousin of the brother to the nephew of the aunty of the mother of the boy who sat at the back of your class in primary 2. I was not in your class, I was in nursery one that time”.

Bottom line, I have an easily recognisable face. One of the major reasons why I do not consider a career in armed robbery viable.

So, I felt my friend was just stating the obvious, but it seemed more than that for her.

“Your compleshun is muddy”.


Nigerians sef. Okay, not only are we now messing around with wedding colours – “bitter leaf green”, “nkwobi yellow”, “ewedu black” (this is why some of us can never lose weight, everytime we receive a wedding invitation and look at the colours, we have to go and buy some nkwobi to confirm the exact colour for the aso-ebi) – we have now jumped into the realm of complexions?


“But I think my complexion is fine o. I only look like a circus clown when I apply some make up but beyond that, someone once told me I had a deep, milk chocolate flavour”.

“Man or woman”?

“What does that have to do with my complexion”?

“Because if it was a man, he was probably just trying to get into your pants but if it was a woman, she was jealous and did not want you to be finer than her”.

Hiaaaaaaan. Nigerians. I give up.

Okay, with those few knocks to my confidence firmly in place, my “friend” proceeded to prescribe some solutions for my “muddy complexion”.

“This one will clear up the dark spots, this other one will brighten the blablabla, and the other one will even out the yadayadayada while this last one will tone your skin overall”.

Ehn? My ears flexed at the sound of that word “toning”.

“Errrrrm, is that not bleaching”?

“No it is not”.

“So, what is it”?


“What is the difference”?

“Bleaching takes off layers of your skin but toning evens out your complexion”.

“So, how come you started out with a “muddy complexion” like me and are now brighter than Dencia”?

“Because I toned my skin”.

“You didn’t bleach”?



“Would I lie to you”?

Hmmmm, wait while I sip a glass of ice cold water and contemplate my response to a classic, “Would I lie to you?”



Okay ladies, if you ever started out looking like a cadbury’s dairy milk bar and ended up looking like the inside of a creme egg…

If you ever started out looking like a bonafide pot of black soup from the hills of Idanre and ended up transformed to a pot of banga soup from the creeks of the Niger Delta.

If you ever started out as a wrap of amala and transited somewhere along the line to pounded yam…

If you have ever run into someone you have known all your life and have to spend a few minutes re-introducing yourself and proving you are whom you say you are…

If you have ever spent at least five minutes swearing by all your village gods that you did not bleach, all you did was just “tone”…

If you have to keep making up delicious stories like, “you know I just returned from America and the weather there is good for the compleshun”…

If you look in the mirror every morning and nearly die of a heart attack until your brain catches up with your eyes and you remember that you are the one staring back at yourself…

My dear, you are not “toning” your skin, whatever the heck that is supposed to mean. I can explain what you are doing in simple English and with a little help from my paddyman Fela…

“Yellow fever: you dey bleesh o, you dey bleesh”.

PS: Ok, I am officially bored with #DasukiGate and how we seem more interested in convicting even his indomie supplier with our phones and gadgets. At this rate, before ashawo go entertain customer, she will ask him for “source of funds”.

Maka adikwa a ma a ma – because of “i was not informed o”.

PPS: Seems like yesterday we just celebrated Christmas and another one is already knocking on our doors? Chai. And I have not finished raising my Christmas goat o. It is not yet fat enough. Maybe I need to send it on vacation to fatten up some more (in case you don’t get any Christmas chop from me, that’s my excuse and I am sticking with it).


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  1. calabar gal

    U can say that again – I have loads of friends who have gone from amala to poundo in the twinkle of an eye.

    Lovely article

  2. bunmiMoyo

    Dis post cracked me up. I av bn told that my face needs to be light like d rest of my body nd I’m like r u saying I shld not enta inside sun again ni? The response is usually ‘ jst start using facial cream to tone it’. Thanks but no thanks. I dnt want to have to introduce myself ova and ova b4 it clicks nd u ask me but u were dark then…….

  3. Kay

    hehehe. you shall not kill me this early mo mo wit laff. All we amala looking shidren, come and go and be proud of our colour joor.

  4. Ijeoma

    You have a square face. Seriously. I’m new to all this makeup, contouring stuff, but I recognize your face shape cos it’s the exact replica of mine. And I had to do some serious tutorials that may or may not have involved measuring my face with tape, to determine that, lol.
    Off now to understudy the kabuki mask setup..

  5. adaeze

    Lwkmd! No be small thing o. I do think however that some people have been able to really even out their skin. Azzin from head to toe, their skin is pretty much alike. Unlike those of us that are multi-coloured cuz of sun wahala, lmao. Anyways, that’s different from toning or bleaching sha. One also has to use dem sunscreen stuff, drinking water… I haven’t really tried it sha but i’ve always wondered sha.


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