We are forever being told that beauty is “only” skin deep. Well, for many black women and a few black men, that’s disturbingly deep. It looks like the politics of black beauty gets more complicated day by day. The era when skin-lightening was frowned upon as a self-hating practice is slipping away and many black people are being vocal about their desire to be lighter. Their arguments being that it’s a personal choice, just like the ones white people make when they darken their skin by tanning. What’s the problem here? And why does this issue make people (of all races) so uncomfortable?
Skin whitening is the lightening of the skin by cosmetic means. This is achieved by using various skin whitening products. Some people will go to great lengths to have their skin lighter; the same also applies to people who want to have darker skin. This is actually a touchy and controversial topic but it’s about preference. Being lighter in color is deemed by many cultures and societies as a representation of true beauty.
Whether it is natural or chemical, safe or dangerous (and honestly, I don’t think those who use it care), why does skin-lightening in all its forms still have so many black women under its spell, willing to risk the health of the body’s biggest organ? What’s behind the “skin color politics”?
In my opinion variety is the spice of life, such as variety in food, clothes, hairstyles etc and it also abounds in nature. That is why all people on earth have `different types of skin colors, from white to yellow and to black or dark skinned. Many African women are influenced by the media that uses light skinned women on most of their advertisements and marketing materials. This pressure to look whiter or light-skinned paved a way for skin whitening products; some of which are helpful and some of which are detrimental to one’s health. Many African women are also brainwashed into the myth that lighter skin is more attractive. My opinion is that beauty is both black and white and everything in between.
Skin Bleaching Syndrome, what you should know:
The post-colonial root of African problems is directly related to skin color. Under the cloak of personal preference, being light skin among African women has replaced dark skin as the native ideal. The aftermath is the manifestation of the Skin Bleaching Syndrome.
Guidance and counseling professionals have overlooked the Bleaching Syndrome as relative to practice. In recent years the practice of skin lightening has come under fire because of its potential negative health effects. There is evidence to suggest that some types of skin-whitening products use active ingredients (such as mercurous chloride) and hydroquinone which can be harmful. Hydroquinone and mercury are main ingredients found in skin bleaching creams and are considered toxic chemicals. These chemical compounds can cause side effects, and should only be used as directed. Hydroquinone is a strong inhibitor of melanin production, meaning that it prevents the skin from making the substance responsible for skin color. Skin bleaching destroys the black pigment found in the epidermis (top layer of the skin). Exposure of the dermis layer(underneath the epidermis layer) to the harsh weather will increase the chances of skin cancer. When the dermis cannot compensate for the absence of the epidermis and coupled with the hot sun, one will get a higher risk of cancer. Creams that alter skin pigmentation can have ingredients that are not compatible with every skin tone thus can have side effects. Toxic levels of mercury may lead to mercury poisoning which causes neurological and kidney damage, and may also lead to psychiatric disorders and severe birth defects.
So now, the ball is in you court. To bleach or not to bleach? In all that you do, just remember that beauty lies in the eye of its beholder and “being natural is beauty in itself”.
Images Courtesy of Google.
By: XOLOLUHLE MAHLANGU
Edited By: K