Skin bleaching is a topic that is most talked about when celebrities of color are seen on a cover of a magazine, who appear to look lighter than usual. Most of the time the blame is swiftly shifted towards photo shopping, or a trick of the light. The issue of skin bleaching is nothing new, skin bleaching was first used in the early 1900’s in colonized Africa , as well as in the Caribbean and in the United States. The issue of skin bleaching was commercialized in such a way that the potential buyer would see it as a way to escape their natural skin tone and join the fairer race and potentially live a life better than what would have normally been handed to them since their skin was dark.
Currently the practice of skin bleaching is a huge corner market in South Africa. 1 in 3 South Africans bleach their skin to appear “white” or what some people have come to refer to it as “whitewashing”. In an article from BBC entitled “Africa: Where Black is not really beautiful they discuss the views of some of the natives in South Africa. One woman interviewed is a local musician named Nomasonto “Mshoza” Mnisi who explains why she chooses to bleach her skin. She states “I’ve been black and dark-skinned for many years; I wanted to see the other side. I wanted to see what it would be like to be white and I’m happy,” she goes on to explain that she did not like her skin and says that is was definitely a self-esteem issue for her. Mnisi is not alone in her views of what beauty should be, many others in South Africa as well as Nigeria and in the Caribbean practice skin bleaching which have dangerous ingredients such as Mercury ( which can cause Mercury poisoning) and Hydroquinone (which has been linked to Ochronosis,). Skin bleaching has also been linked to skin cancer and brain damage.
Even after all of the scientific evidence that is shown to prove that skin bleaching is potentially dangerous, some people of color still opt to use these products in order to obtain what is seen in society as something needed to fit in with what is perceived as beautiful. Not only should the concern lie with the physical harm that comes with this practice but also with the emotional turmoil that is evident when a person feels the need to change their skin tone. Do they do this in order to reach a stigma of what is beautiful? Is this the result of what women of color have been taught for years? Within the pages of magazines and in the movies we are shown women who are fair in skin tone who are shown as the epitome of beauty. Does this belief stem from the oppression of nations for over hundreds of years?
This truly saddens me to try to understand why some people would go to such lengths to reach an idea of beauty. Instead, it is plastered on magazine pages with women who all look the same; we should encourage every race to love who they are in spite of what might have been said before. Women on both sides of the color divide go through a process which changes how they would normally look just to appeal to what is portrayed in media. To me the signals of what is beautiful are all jumbled up making it distorted and brash; confusing the populous on what is to be expected of them. When will we learn that we are beautiful? In fact, society’s idea of what is beautiful is the only ugly thing. It is time we embrace one another’s differences and enter beauty.