Unfair and Lovely: Everything Wrong with Skin Bleaching

Using substances or treatments in order to lighten one’s skin complexion, also known as skin bleaching, is widely practiced worldwide by women of color. The biggest myth about skin bleaching is that it doesn’t happen here in the United States – only in Caribbean, African or Asian countries. Wrong.

 

Google the word “Skin Bleaching” and suggested results automatically appear of “Skin Bleaching Near Me” or “Skin Bleaching in Atlanta” where you can professionally go in to get it done. Scrolling through the results, there’s thousands of products, services and clinics to get your skin bleached.

 

At the same time, it is not surprising. The skin bleaching industry brings in billions of dollars. One of the most infamous products I grew up familiar with is “Fair and Lovely”. Founded in India in the 70’s, “Fair and Lovely” is a skin lightening cream that is in the South Asian market and has expanded beyond.

 

One of my earliest experiences with skin bleaching was in fifth grade. I remember I was going to a wedding. It was a normal thing to see my mom bleaching her face. She had suggested I do it and I remember putting it on and having to leave it on my face for the allotted time. My face began to burn. I remember I had tears from how much it was stinging my eyes. My mom looked over and made a joke that “Beauty is Pain”, so it was another thing I needed to tolerate. I remember washing my face after and looking in the mirror staring looking for what miraculous change happened. I looked the same, so what exactly did I gain out of this?

 

Nothing. The only result is that as women we are unconsciously supporting a harmful narrative of beauty standards. Skin bleaching and names like “Fair and Lovely” promote colorism. This further normalizes the dangerous idea that women of color and of dark skin complexion are not meeting societal standards of beauty. It supports a toxic idea that to be seen as beautiful that your skin must be light and blemish free.

 

Recently, the company rebranded “Fair and Lovely” to “Glow and Lovely” due to long standing controversy. However, changing its name to a neutral title does not hide the disturbing purpose of skin bleaching. Their mission statement states they want to provide women a “solution for their beauty needs.”

 

Well frankly, when it comes to beauty, there never was a problem with the way you looked in the first place. So why do we need a solution? On top of that, there has never been a need for any woman to lighten their skin complexion. Melanin is a beautiful thing and it deserves to be celebrated.

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