Ideas of beauty vary around the world. While many Europeans and American white females (and males as well) want to be tan and try to achieve this by using tanning beds and bronzers, many Asians and African Americans are using skin bleachers to achieve a lighter skin tone. Which one is more harmful to the skin? Well, that is debatable, depending on the frequency of usage, but either way, both of these “beauty regimens” can cause cancer.

When I first heard of skin bleaching I cringed. I thought it was the most bizarre thing I have ever heard. I found out about skin bleaching through my best friend who is from the Philippines. When I first met her father I was sort of dumbfounded by the fact that he was so pale. He was noticeably whiter than the rest of his family. My friend told me he uses skin bleaching creams to make his skin lighter.

The idea of changing one’s skin tone interested me,and I recently looked around on the internet and found out that a skin lightening product called “Fair & Lovely” is very popular in India and the Middle East. Here is a Middle Eastern commercial for this cream:

In this commercial this female reporter is shown being unsuccessful and even states that she was unable to get her dream job due to her skin color.  She then uses this skin bleaching product and lands not only her dream job, but also gets asked out by a male associate.

Personally when I saw this woman in the beginning of the commercial, right before she made the statement “The obstacle to obtaining my dream job was my skin,” I thought her skin tone was perfect, and I would actually prefer to have her complexion rather than the pale white skin that I was born with.  There are many self tanner lotions advertised on TV in the U.S. today, but I have not seen any commercials for skin lighteners, although I do know of many people of different ethic groups who would be interested in purchasing such products. They are available, but not widely publicized in the U.S.  Why is that so? Is a person with dark skin wanting lighter skin worse than a light skinned person wanting to have darker skin? Why is it that all the ads I watched on Youtube for skin lightening creams have overwhelmingly more dislikes than likes, but the videos about bronzers and tanners have more likes than dislikes? I may sound like I am trying to say that it is a good thing that people with dark skin want lighter skin, or that it is good that there are products available out there for them. That is not the case.  I actually do not think skin bleachers nor skin tanners should be made popular. Both of these are built on the assumptions that people are not happy with the skin tone that they were born with. The reason for that however, is that we have be socialized to believe it is so. I used to be unhappy with my fair skin and to this day sometimes I look in the mirror and think I look pale and disgusting, and I wish I had Rihanna’s skin tone. Then I realize and am surprised at the fact that many people of darker skin tones would love to have my skin tone. What it really comes down to is: we should all be happy with the color of skin that we were born with and accept ourselves the way we are, whether it be black, white, or purple! Self-hatred is not going to bring us closer to a better world.

(And of course the next step is to accept others the way they are! 🙂 )


One response

  1. nasrinahmed says:

    This cream was all the rage in my household for almost a good year. My mother and all my aunts invested in a tube of Fair and Lovely, funny because they’re all pretty light-skinned to begin with, so I don’t understand why they bought it. What I also find disturbing is how especially in Southeast Asian countries, not only ads, but whole T.V. series revolve around skin color. I remember one soap opera my aunt used to watch where the whole basis of the show was that there was one woman who was darker skinned than the others and everyone hated her and blamed her for everything because she was darker. I thought it was funny that as the show progressed, over years of course because this is a soap opera after all, and people started liking this dark skinned woman, they actually lightened up her skin tone in the show. If you fast forwarded from the first episode to the last, you could see as her skin lightened, everyone started liking her better. The whole “lighter skin=better person” is absolutely ridiculous and I think it’s horrible that many people unfortunately internalize this message whether consciously or unconsciously and it can aid in them having unfounded prejudices against darker skinned people.