The Campaign against Skin Bleaching

Courtesy of msxlabs.org

Courtesy of msxlabs.org

Skin bleaching can be disguised as a beauty fad, but it tells a story much deeper than the shades of these people’s complexions. It is a procedure thought to bring out a beautiful, more attractive visage, but only in exchange for the increased probability of long term health consequences including (but not limited to) skin cancer, chemical poisoning, liver and kidney failure.

Dark skinned women around the world are lining up to have their skin bleached. Women in Jamaica, Senegal, South Africa, and India are all exposing their skin to bleaching products that contain harmful chemicals such as hydroquinone and mercury. If these women are brave enough to gamble with their health, then there must be some perceived underlying benefits extending past that of simply a prettier face. The relationship examined here is that of light skin, and success and privilege. This association started centuries ago when slavery was still in heavy practice and when light skin was directly equated with favorable treatment. The belief has been so deeply ingrained into the psyches of Black people that they are conditioned to feel socially inferior and less capable than those with lighter shades.

The hope to reverse this practice is now in the hands of the greater global community and several grassroots campaigns working to promote self-love and acceptance of Black identity while educating the negative health effects of skin bleaching. One of the more prominent campaigns is “Black is Beautiful,” a response to the recent advertisements for bleaching creams such as “Khess Petch” (“all White” in Wolof) appearing in the Senegalese capital of Dakar. To counter these ads, advocates created their own posters of a beautiful dark skinned woman in attempts to persuade local women to see themselves as beautiful too.

The banning of skin bleaching products will not stop these women from bleaching their faces and bodies. As long as they believe in the false conceptions of physical beauty and social benefits, the practice will continue to exist. Advocates now have an extremely tough challenge of teaching these women to love themselves, an idea believed to be fundamental to the rest of us.

by Qi Xu

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7 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on ACRAH.

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  2. Georgine

     /  February 18, 2014

    As with the bleaching, there are other less drastic practices used all over the world. It can seem a bit paradox that while some people are using whitening cream, others try endlessly to get more tanned. No matter how bizarre these practices might seem, it should be understandable that people want to alter their appearance not only to be what is considered more beautiful, but probably also to be more successful. Nevertheless it is distressing that people risk their health to reach certain beauty standards.

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  3. Nora Armenta

     /  February 23, 2014

    I concur with Georgine. From my personal experience, interactions with people have held true that they “want what they do not have.” I’ve met plenty of people who would rather have curly hair rather than straight hair. Although it is a less serious cosmetic procedure as bleachng skin, I believe that it isn’t something in which only dark skinned people are victims too. People with very fair skin go to the tanning salon to try and get a darker tan even if it burns them and they have no avail to a darker look. I believe everyone has their own share of insecurities. Both of my parents are from Mexico and before I was even born my brother drew a picture of himself, but it truly wasn’t a picture of himself. My mother shared with me that he drew a picture of a boy with blond hair and blue eyes at the age of 5. We grew up in a region where the hispanic culture was very rare but was still an obvious minority. My mother questioned the pictured and told him that that wasn’t truly who he was. I understand that media and pressures of society may want a person to change their outward appearance but that goes across the board. I am not advocating that it is correct for society to do, but merely the fact that this subject is too broad to just say that one population is being hurt more than others.

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  4. Alexis P

     /  March 2, 2014

    I once read an article about Light Skin Privilege that came to mind when reading this post. Like white privilege, light skin privilege is the benefits and assumed easier circumstances light skin blacks receive as opposed to dark skin blacks. All rooted in colorism, it is very true that when the media does portray an image of black beauty is that of a light skin women. Growing up as a dark skin women it was incredibly difficult knowing you were nowhere near the “standard” of beauty and not even close to runner up. I along with a lot of my friends considered lightening creams and other beauty aids but in the end decided against it. This issue is bigger than banning these lightening creams, We must first change the image of what beautiful looks like and learn to appreciate differences as a society, so everyone will feel they have a place.

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  5. Kelsey

     /  March 12, 2014

    It is disheartening when people (women in this case) buy into their own perceived, assigned, or socially constructed inferiority. The “My Black is Beautiful” campaign highlighted a strong, underlying complex that it exists within Black communities around issues of body positivity, and has created a movement to reverse disinformation. I am interested in knowing what the experience of skin bleaching is in India compared to Senegal. What are cultural implications and differences that exist in India (South Asia) and Senegal? Does lighter skin in India exact an advantaged lifestyle?

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  6. Aasim

     /  April 3, 2014

    Skin bleaching is a very bizarre phenomenon that could possibly instigated by the white washing of African-American women in American media. Take for instance artists like Nicki Minaj and Beyonce appearing lighter skinned with blonde weaves on magazines. The norm for what beauty looks like must be changed.

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