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What is Skin Whitening?
Skin whitening, also referred to as skin bleaching and/or skin lightening, is a global phenomenon. It is the cosmetic use of chemical agents to lighten the complexion of one’s skin.
The practice of chemically lightening the skin has become more trendy, especially in the entertainment business, within recent years.
This practice of whitening skin is controversial because it stirs issues of White supremacy, self-identity, and severe health risks.
“Light skin” vs “Dark skin”
Why Women Whiten
Women who whiten their skin do so because they believe it is necessary to make themselves more attractive and appealing.
Many women become addicted to the products; obsessively purchasing in an ongoing quest to achieve an unrealistic measure of beauty, as well as, the acceptance from others.
A contributing factor to skin whitening addiction is negative self-image, which leads to over compensation and/or addiction.
Addictions can stem from pain, from not getting needs met, and from a lack of resources or support made readily available, as well as, accessible to the person.
If the person does not truthfully acknowledge the underlying issues associated with the addiction (in this case, whitening), then the addiction will linger on.
Skin whitening is an old practice.
The history of skin whitening can be traced to the Elizabethan era of powder and paint.
Queen Elizabeth is credited as being the first of her time to adopt a completely "made-up" appearance by painting her face with a white powder, which is referred to as Venetian ceruse.
Noblewomen of Britain followed Queen Elizabeth's lead but cosmetics soon became associated with disease because of poor hygiene.
Women rarely washed their faces and layered new powder over old, which led to a number of serious plagues and smallpox outbreaks.
Years of this skin maltreatment were found to turn their skin a dull shade of gray.
At the time, bathing was a rare occurrence and only the privileged were able to mask their unsightly skin with the infamous white powder and protect themselves from sun exposure.
As a result, society equated white skin with cleanliness, high social standing, and wealth; meanwhile, the darker tones were associated with the working masses who had to toil in the sun.
Beyonce's Elizabethan Era Inspired Look
Does Beyoncé use Skin Bleach?
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With Jackson gone, it now seems as if Beyoncé has been positioned in the crosshairs as pop's new bogeyman for pale-skinned blackness. Is she destined to be perpetually vilified over the issue, just as Jackson was?...
A geisha at work in Gion Kyoto
The Hidden Geisha World, Now Unveiled (Maiko's)
Skin Whitening In Asia
In Asia, the market for skin whitening products is largest.
Geisha's would wear white face paint when they were allowed to speak to the emperor because they could only do so through a screen or veil, which affected his visibility.
And, their job responsibilities included meeting patrons and "performing" (prostitution).
Nevertheless, the only lighting was a candle or lantern light, so the white face paint was used to make their faces more visible in the dimly lit rooms.
In Kyoto, western Japan, the white face of the geisha is actually the trademark look of the maiko.
A maiko is an apprentice (not exactly same as geisha) and she is expected to never react to unwaranted advances from patrons.
These advances intimidate the young girls and many say that the heavy face paint helps to mask blushing (e.g., feeling of embarrassment or shame) when they're approached by patrons.
When a maiko gains more experience, she is deemed a full-fledged Geisha and the look becomes simpler.
Women in China would also ground pearls from seashells and swallowed them to lighten their skin.
Dencia, West African Pop Star
Skin Whitening In Africa
The manifestations of lightening one's skin is also being practiced disproportionately within communities “of color” and exceedingly among people of African descent.
Skin bleaching is very visible in East Africa.
It's also been discovered that over a third of the women in South Africa bleach their skin to obtain "beauty" and “whiteness”.
It is evident that the historical legacies of slavery, colonization, and westernization in Africa have shaped internalized racism ideals among the women there.
The sad reality is that now, even in Africa, dark skin tones are no longer celebrated or revered as beautiful.
Some Black women in the US also practice skin bleaching in order to assimilate into dominating groups and fulfill their unrealistic image aspirations.
Lupita's Acceptance Speech
Dencia Tries to Defend Whitenicious
Fans React to Dencia's Diss at Lupita Nyong'o Once Again
Lupita vs. Dencia: What happened?
Dencia has repeatedly criticized Lupita Nyong'o after, the actress dropped the name of her company, Whitenicious, during her acceptance speech for the Essence Magazine Black Women In Hollywood Breakthrough Performance Award in February.
Nyong’o described a letter she received from a young girl of African descent, who had been contemplating the use of Dencia's product.
The young girl was inspired by the recent images of Nyong'o in the media.
She ultimately decided against lightening her skin because she identified with the new Hollywood "It" girl who resembled her and exhibited true pride in her natural skin tone.
Unfortunately, Dencia was offended by Nyong’o’s statements.
She tweeted her thoughts, which mocked Nyong'o's speech, in addition to the acclaim the actress has earned recently.
Nevertheless, Nyong’o has signed a new deal with Lancôme, which establishes her as the beauty brand’s first black ambassador.
Meawhile, Dencia and her product have been slammed for promoting ads that depict the pop star with extremely lighter skin, which does not accurately reflect her true life appearance.
In a recent interview, Dencia publicly defended herself, her brand, and the general use of skin-lightening products; however, fans were less than impressed with Whitenicious and Dencia's rants about Nyong'o.
Skin Whitening Obsession
Another Reason to Avoid Lightening Creams
Whitening Has Major Health Risks
Skin Whitening is detrimental to one's psychological well being, but it also has major consequences that can extend much farther than emotions and self esteem.
It can cause serious health problems.
Many casualties were reported since the 1950s in relation to people using "skin whitening" soaps that were made with mercury, carboxylic acid, and hydroquinone.
It can also lead toward abnormal functioning of the adrenal glands, as well as, blood diseases.
Nevertheless, hydroquinone can be found in over 200 skin lightening products sold in the US today.
Mercury, also known as mercurous chloride, poisons the bloodstream and can harm the brain development of fetuses and babies.
It is toxic when used in cosmetics because it is readily absorbed and the end results point toward kidney, brain, nervous and gastrointestinal disorders.
It also causes skin rashes, mood swings, memory loss, and muscle weakness.
Not to mention, it can affect the central nervous system and it increases the risk of skin cancer, leukemia, as well as, liver or kidney failure.
Everyone wants clearer, more beautiful, radiant skin; however, there are healthier ways to go about achieving such results without losing your identity.
Natural Remedies for Correcting Skin Problems
This will get rid of the old tanned cells and make way for new, cells!
Pay attention to exfoliating your skin from time to time so that you get rid of the dead skin.
Helps maintain or improve general health of skin
Take away all refined food products and replace them with healthy and nutritious ones.
Citric acid is natural bleacher
Cut a lemon/lime into 2 halves. Rub it gently on your face and neck. Wash it after 10-20 minutes. Doing it regularly will cleanse your skin and slowly start lightening it.
This helps keep skin free of dehydration and so the look is healthy and unblemished.
Increase your daily intake of water.
Using it regularly will lighten your skin
Lather it to your skin for 3 minutes
Oatmeal & Tomato juice
Brightens and tightens skin
Mix equal parts of oatmeal and tomato juice. Apply this mixture to your skin and allow it to settle for at least half an hour before rinsing it off from your skin thoroughly.
Another natural skin bleacher
Pour some Milk into a bowl, grab a towel dip it in the bowl and rub it generously around your face
Test yourself: Do You Have Body Image Issues?
- Take the test - Learnmyself
Do you have body image issues? Are you overly invested in body image? This free test will measure your investment in body image and will reveal if you have a healthy relationship or one which may require attention.
Online Support Groups
- The Butterfly Foundation
There are four monthly online support groups as part of its National ED HOPE Service.
White skin is viewed as the "right skin" all over the globe.
However, chemically whitening your skin, especially for prolonged periods of time, is a bad idea.
It suggests that the user is potentially internalizing racism and/or oppression rather than merely trying to correct the "dark spots", as Dencia claims her product does.
These ideals have been manufactured by a color-conscious society and contribute to the anxiety women have about facing the world on a daily basis.
Skin whitening can also cause severe harm to your skin in the long run.
Therefore, don't be swayed by the bombarding images of lighter looking celebrities and cheap creams on the shelves.
Find the beauty inside yourself and hold on to it, which is obviously easier said than done.
So, if you find yourself truly struggling with this issue, know that it is OK and you are certainly not alone.
Talk to someone about it, preferably a professional who specializes in body image issues.
But, whatever you do, you mustn't lose your identity trying to achieve a standard of beauty that was not designed to celebrate your uniqueness in the first place.
Now, the individual tasks are to figure out who you are and learn to love that person more and more each day.
And, we must collectively stop sending out wrong, unhealthy, and superficial messages, like Dencia, about the "definition" of beauty.
Every individual is peculiar and perfect in their own way. And, the reality is that beauty has no shade.
Check out the links below for more information regarding the widespread epidemic of skin whitening.
Yellow Fever (Short Film on Skin, Race and Women’s Self-Image)
Skin Lightening Trending Among Kenya's Wealthiest
- Skin Lightening Cream Injections Trending Among Kenya's Wealthiest
Controversy has always surrounded the practice of skin-lightening, but not enough to hinder its popularity in various communities around the world. On River Road in Nairobi -- a crowded marketplace with a reputation for black market transactions a...
TED Talk on Beauty Standards
Skin Bleaching at Fashion Week to achieve "café au lait" complexion
- Dakar fashion week takes stand against skin bleaching| Reuters
DAKAR (Reuters) - Backstage at Dakar Fashion Week a group of young women squeeze into impossibly high heels while others sit still as make-up artists paint their eyelids a shining emerald color.All legs
Beauty and the Bleach
- Beauty and the Bleach | Craig and Marc Kielburger
Mama Apiyo's stall in the Nairobi marketplace is a wealth of beauty secrets. There are balms for styling hair and make-up to cover blemishes. Then, there are the creams and lotions promising a lighter complexion. To skeptics, the 35-year-old vend...
Dancehall Music and Skin Bleaching
- Destructive Fashion or Internal Foe? | Dustin T. Duncan
Is skin bleaching (often promoted in dancehall music) destructive fashion or internal foe? It may be one, both or neither, but regardless of the reason it is a unhealthy practice....
Lost DanceHall Rapper, Savage, Braggin About Skin Bleaching
© 2014 Crystal Gordon
Robert Walker on January 31, 2019:
Wow - What an amazing article! Very scary the dangers and length one will go to at the sake of their health.
anwar hamdani on October 17, 2016:
“How to Whiten Your Skin
Naturally - 100% Guarantee!”
Billy Zhang from Sydney, Australia on September 26, 2014:
This is really interesting, before reading this I had no idea about skin whitening.