Skin bleaching: The dark side of pale

20090601180633skinbleachingHi, this is David Stead, Editor of Africa Have Your Say…. we’ve been joining forces with our colleagues in the BBC Caribbean Service to discuss the controversial issue of skin bleaching.

Thousands of African and Caribbean women – and a few men too for that matter – use skin bleaching products at some stage in their lives, despite concerns over safety and long term damage. Why?

Kanangwa Humuyamba Newlove from Zambia where bleachers are called FBI’s (formerly black individuals) got straight to the point, telling us the frightening reality for a lot of poor African women desperate to marry is that men more often than not prefer light skinned women.

Carline in Jamaica seemed to support this view, saying she started using bleaching products three years ago because her ex-boyfriend wanted her to be brown rather than black. She’s given up now…but spent months bleaching herself from top to toe every morning.

19 year old Fenisha in Kingston, Jamaica, was absolutely blunt. She has been bleaching for five years because “people say if you’re black you’re ugly”.

Across in Nairobi, Yusuf – a man – seemed to confirm these prejudices. “I have a passion for light women”, he said. They are lovely and caring, If you walk in the street everyone looks. If you are with a black lady no-one is interested. It is a status symbol”.

It’s one rule for the men and another for women however – Yusuf admitted he would not bleach himself. But lots of callers and texters were shocked that so many people were prepared to bleach.

Nana in Accra said it was “an insult to my race and another form of colonialism. I am black and proud.” Hawa in Abidjan argued that we need to challenge the view that the “latino” look of Beyonce, J-Lo or Rhianna is the epitome of beauty. She says girls should be educated at a young age to appreciate their skin. And of course the irony that white people seemed to spend much of their time – at least in the summer – trying to get their skin darker was noted by many people.

“I spend a lot of time in the sun and on sun beds trying to look darker while other are trying to look whiter!!” Catherine in Swindon texted. “And I have a lot of black and asian friends who are beautiful and I am often jealous of them for their lovely skin colour.”

But few thought that despite the possible side effects – stretch marks, skin irritation, sun burn among others – skin bleaching should be completely banned. And in countries such as Nigeria, the Gambia, Uganda and Kenya which have banned the importation and manufacture of products containing skin lightening agents local concoctions which may contain chlorine bleach, hair relaxer creams and lime juice are still widely used.

22 Responses to “Skin bleaching: The dark side of pale”

  1. 1 Steve in Boston
    June 11, 2009 at 22:18

    As a white guy who misspent his youth working on his tan and now spends his time checking for melanoma, I say messing around with your skin is not a good idea.

    Anyway, beauty is not in the skin–it’s clearly in the hair. Black women with straight hair are a totally gorgeous!

    • 2 EmilyS66
      June 18, 2009 at 19:18

      With that reply, you have just added to the stereotype further, though you say that the beauty is not in the skin Steve.
      To get the long straight black hair look, many black women have to have it chemically straightened, etc.
      Fight against this stereotype by encouraging that every woman is gifted with her OWN beautiful looks, whether that included in straight hair, curly, wavy. etc.

  2. June 12, 2009 at 00:42

    i started using the skin bleaching injectable “LITE NING” after finding out my two favorite entertainers J-Lo and Rhianna uses it to get the Hoolywood glow… i love it, it’s so good. i don’t have to worry about putting on sticky topical lotions to bleach my skin in the hot sticky humid weather of the summer time anymore. now i just take two Lite Ning Pills during the day and 1 ijection a week and it keeps my light in bright even after a long day on the beach. i found it at http://www.BioBeautylabs.com anlong with a whole product line devoted totally to the lightening of the skin, curing stretch marks, hyperpigmentaion and more. i love it and justthought i’d share this great discovery!

  3. 4 deryck/trinidad
    June 12, 2009 at 02:51

    The practice of skin bleaching is the remnant of a colonial past where those that are non-white suffer from an inferiority complex and low self esteem because of their skin colour. When I was growing up the lighter your skin the greater privileges you had. The media also portrays the accepted colour and fashion trends that also assault our psyches subliminally and overtly.

  4. 5 deryck/trinidad
    June 12, 2009 at 03:23

    The rejection or non -acceptance of your skin colour or an attempt to make it lighter shows the deep, ingrained psychological scars that have transcended generations and will continue to transcend generations unless we declare to ourselves that we are happy with who we are.

    The psychological scarring is so deep that we don’t even recognise it as being alien to our mentality. Instead we accept the world’s perception of beauty and we despise our own.Oh what a sad state we are in! The acceptance of feeling inferior is not recognised and so we harm ourselves in the pursuit of false beauty.

    When I was growing up there were perceptions that having a lighter skin can help you gain a better social and economic status and that was truism. Even I would have self image problems, but I didn’t know what caused it until adulthood. When I examined my self -perception and did some incisive introspection I realised the true nature of my problem. I then had to reconfigure and recalibrate my mentality.

  5. 6 Ann
    June 12, 2009 at 10:15

    Woman of all skin colour have psychological pressures inflicted upon them, but I’d just like to say as a white women (who covers up her Scottish freckles)…

    Personally, I find black African women the most beautiful woman in the world. And I know my husband does too as I’ve had to stop him walking into the odd lampost 🙂

    Your skin is magnificant, radiant and gorgeous – please don’t change it 🙂

  6. 7 Jennifer
    June 12, 2009 at 13:43

    After reading Trina’s comment about injecting skin bleaching product I went to the website because I couldn’t believe that people would do something so silly. There was practically no information about it on the website. What’s in it and what are the long term effects of usage? I hope people seriously reconsider using products like this unless they are sure that they are safe. Even then, I don’t think people should be changing their skin color! Be happy with who you are.

  7. 8 Tom K in Mpls
    June 12, 2009 at 15:42

    Decadence: 3. unrestrained or excessive self-indulgence. per http://dictionary.reference.com/

    Depending where you draw the line, watching a sunset can be considered decadent. But this, Rogaine, makeup and grossly impractical clothing, in my eyes is just silly. But hey, if you have the money, I can enjoy the chuckle.

  8. June 13, 2009 at 12:53

    There is nothing wrong with cosmetic surgery per se as long as the treatments are verified as safe or otherwise for the consumer to make an informed decision. When it becomes an obsession ( “must have”) then it is clearly the product of irrationality and the physical is the least that the individual(s) concerned have to worry about. Unfortunately, there are vast numbers of such individuals.

  9. 12 Allan - Trini & Canada
    June 29, 2009 at 22:35

    I was considering bleaching for all the reasons above – its true your’re considered 2nd class if you’re “black” — the lighter your skin, lesser a priviledge. Now living in a multi cultural society – you are exposed to other individuals who take pride in who they are & where they’re from. One should be proud to stand out & be counted — you are who you are and if you’re skin deep – you are shallow & need to look further inside for your real identity. – Allan – Trinidad & Tobago —

  10. 13 Aboy calledhate
    July 13, 2009 at 05:20

    Of course I think it would be dumb to bleach your skin but people do all sorts of dumb things to reach what they or their peers believe is attractive, everyone has their own Idea what is attractive and that’s a personal choice. Some people like big boobs, some like little, some like big lips some like thin, some like big butts some like small. There are all sorts of procedures to alter your appearance now days.
    I believe that unless you have some atrocious disfigurement you should just make the best of what god gave you and be proud of it. But people are vain and it can only be expected that they would give in to popular style.
    What ever floats your boat I guess? But if you’re dumb enough to fall into that style trap then don’t try to blame society for pressuring you into doing it. You have a brain, use it.

  11. July 15, 2009 at 02:00

    Look within if you don’t like what you then make a change. Bleaching creams are not the answer learn to love and accept yourself. Make peace with you. Acceptance from outside is not the answer if you think so you will neer be at peace you’ll always try to please others at the cost of your own happiness.

  12. 15 Marc
    July 30, 2009 at 04:08

    Until my early twenties, I used to go to the beach every Sunday in the summer so I would get a tan. I used to feel pressured to be dark, because most of my friends had a tan. Today I’m older and wiser and I don’t do that anymore. Some people have stated it very well here. We’re never happy with who we are. We’re all white, brown, black, etc… We’re just like a garden with flowers of different colors. Let’s enjoy our differences and appreciate the beauty God has given us. For those who have dark skins, just think of Whitney Houston, Tina Turner (who even at 70 is such a gorgeous woman!), and so many other African American women who are so beautiful. Maybe I should also mention the Indian women who have a beautiful natural tan!

    I’m enjoying my paleness today. I hope you’ll enjoy whatever shade of skin you have. Instead of bleaching your skin, loose some weight, change your hair do, or do something else that will help you be healthier and happier.

    Enjoy yourself!!!!

  13. 16 7thangel
    July 30, 2009 at 05:37

    what’s sickening to me is that it won’t go away. i don’t think i’m being pessimistic just being realistic.

  14. 17 Debbie
    August 6, 2009 at 02:29

    i understand wat everyone here is saying, but pple who bleach have their reasons why, and it seems like a personal thing, thats why they dont go about saying it out loud, its also an addiction that we cant run away from. i bleach for many reasons but i dont go to the exact of looking over light. everyone has they own way of seeing this subject. as long as it is done in a save way n using safe ingredients…then i dont see anything wrong with it. whateva one does..good or bad ppl will still talk.

  15. 18 Ayna
    August 6, 2009 at 13:42

    skin bleaching is also known as skin lightening so its not just for getting lighter but for clearnign your skin of imperfections, most of my friends use NUR76 which is a natural skin lightening cream. If people are free to tan then why dont we let them choose if they want to lighten their skin too?

  16. January 2, 2010 at 14:00

    There is a couple of pieces here http://jameswatadza.blogspot.com, I was the contributor) on the black identity you might want to have a look.

    Black women must free their minds. Black guys too. Be proud tobe yourselves!

  17. 20 Bridget
    March 5, 2010 at 10:22

    Skin lightening is very dangerous if you dont have best tips on how to do it. I apply the lightening cream at night, three times a week n a normal moisturizer durring the day, everyday.

  18. March 8, 2010 at 21:14

    i realy want to say that it is not the outside of as which matters but the inside so even your skin is black it is ok you shoud love you and be confidant and try to live in happiness whatever people says you are the best and like this they will accept you and loves you

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