Let’s Address ‘’Skin Whitening’’ Issue: The Reality Of It, The Danger Behind & Others

By: Aqilah Najwa Jamaluddin / November 15, 2021
Categories : Aesthetics, Skincare

Fair and Lovely, Dove, Ultra White, Creme Bleach—just to name a few brands that we as an Asian people,  grow up hearing and learning about how these brands are feeding our minds and soul to the false narrative of how one drop could change the entire colour of your skin. Not to mention endless other beauty brands advocating the before and after photos of their models with considerably much lightened skin in order to sell their products. And because I barely read any beauty-related articles addressing these issues, let me become one of the minority to mention this; It has to stop

It’s the 21st century, we literally need to teach our daughters (and son) to embrace our natural skin colour. All shades are beautiful, though. They’re all unique in their own way. Point me to someone that you know, who has said that being ‘’white’’ is far more beautiful than others? I just want to talk. Skin whitening or skin bleaching ain’t new. It is widely practiced everywhere in this entire world—especially in India, Southeast Asia, Ghana and the Caribbean. It makes me wonder, how the heck are these skin whitening problems or addictions even begin with? Who placed the rules that in order to look beautiful you’ll need to lighten your skin tone? 

As a beauty journalist, it is my job to address these unhealthy concerns. So, I did my best to find the perfect research about skin whitening obsession that is being widely practiced around Asian people. Beauty Insider has all the information you need including the history of it, the danger behind it and how we can make a difference. 

(Source istock)

What Is Skin Whitening Treatment? 

Skin whitening—or widely known as skin bleaching—is unethical treatment that is often being used in products or performed in aesthetic procedures. Most of their ingredients, though, contain heavy chemicals that have been restricted and banned by most experts due to their high level of intensity and damage they could bring to one’s skin. Think of a bleaching detergent that we used to wash away any discolouration on our shirts. It contains toxins and other harsh chemicals. 

Chemicals Found In Whitening Treatment

A chemical known as Hydroquinone is actively used when it comes to skin whitening products and treatments. According to the British Skin Foundation, this ingredient, when used frequently, has the potential to rip apart your skin layers, totally eliminating any melanin or dark spots that are found on your face and body. This happened due to their link with a blue grey pigmentation known as ochronosis. Not only does it strip away your natural skin colours but can cause excessive fine lines, wrinkles and burns. When applied to your body, it can trigger your nerves and further complicate your liver. Oh my god. And if you think that Hydroquinone is dangerous enough to be put on your skin, a certain brand even went further and added another extremely harmful chemical known as Mercury. According to the World’s Health Organisation, Mercury is prohibited to be put in skincare products like creams or serum due to their powerful force that could damage organs like the liver. They are literally man made and manufactured in chemical ingredients that are very harmful and inorganic in nature. You could also face rashes, redness, irritation, burn, scarring and affect your mental health like psychosis and peripheral neuropathy. They have been shown and proven dangerous and toxic to your body cells. 

(Source istock)

The History Of Skin Bleaching

Of course, when talking about the beauty of the skin shade, it is tied up heavily to race and ethnicity problems. Or shall we address it as racism? The skin whitening ‘’procedure’’ first took place in the Victorian Era, (duhh), where they used to layer powder upon powder or sometimes even white coloured paint on their face as the foundation. If I remember correctly, due to this ‘’whitening’’ technique obsession, Queen Elizabeth I was diagnosed with skin cancer or unintentionally poisoned her whole look. She was known to paint her whole face everyday, even took arsenic complexion wafers that contributed to her famous ‘’ghostly’’ look. Caucasion women were so adapted to their belief that whiteness is a signal of purity and pretty and even until now, they are still fully invested in that idea. I am not sure why they are so scared of melanin or dar-coloured skin tones that swear oaths to do everything they can to stay ‘’white’’, and later on proceed with feeding the narrative that everyone needs to be white or bleach their skin in order to feel and look pretty. Are they failing to realize that (even historically speaking), the skin whitening treatment or process is extremely harmful. From using the paint and the arsenic wafers to endless of modern-day beauty products that contain harmful chemicals, people began to get sick and affect their mental health altogether.

The Ongoing Racism

And with the recent blather-type advertorial like Nivea and Dove, it looks like the movement of ‘’all shades are beautiful’’ are still somewhat stagnant in certain angles because how could someone even think of airing and approving that kind of ideas? There were big accusations in the practice of racism in the media industry. And the never ending old method of using black bodies as a way to ‘’demonstrate’’ the before and after picture is so out of this world. And the so-called 21st century and ‘’embracing your skin tones’’ movement still has a lot of work to do because the system has clearly failed to educate and provide barriers on what can and cannot be produced. We have to understand that white supremacy functions even before social media took place in our daily routines. It goes way back. So what makes you think they are going to stop now? They still actively play it parts and we are just a puppet for them to sell their whitening products. When talking about skin whitening products, you need to be aware of wolves in sheep’s-clothing. There are so many skin whitening or skin bleaching products that we walk through every day, it just looks different from the stand outs one. 

(Source istock)

How We Can Make A Difference? 

Of course, the first and most oblivious step is to change the narrative that certain skin types are better than others. It all starts within you. Also, you will need to educate the people around you as well, learn more, read more about skin whitening or skin bleaching obsession—what is the correlation between mental health and skin concern? Because as we all know, skin bleaching isn’t only sought after around the Africa region, it has been stretched out around the Asian community. You will need to educate yourself and your surroundings about the impact of certain skin concerns. One thing that I know for sure is that you have to always be open with learning a few things. Do not sit still in your comfort zones. Go out there and explore cultures, ethnicity and races. It will bring you everywhere. 

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