You’ve seen Leona Lewis on the cover of Grazia magazine. The X Factor winner did look stunning on the cover, but was barely recognizable because of her changing skin color. Since then, the debate over skin whitening and white beauty is back on the agenda on what constitutes real beauty.
Here’s the question: what’s the truth about the skin whitening process? Why do many women consider using bleaching and skin whitening products to lighten their skin?
Check out these 15 eye-opening facts about the world of skin whitening, along with some helpful tips on how you can change your perception of real beauty:
1. History 101: A Quick Glance on the History of Skin Whitening Products
Fact: there are tons of skin whitening products on the market, available online and in stores. The surprising part is many people allot a part of their budgets for these types of skin products.
The question is this: when did the process of skin whitening get started?
The history of skin whitening goes way back, specifically during the Elizabethan period. During this period, men and women used products like tin ash-based, lead or sulfur products to whiten their skin. After all, the whiter the skin, the more prestigious they were. Skin whitening is also a common practice among some communities of color.
However, skin bleaching was the real deal in the African area of our world, particularly during the 1950’s. Many women from countries such as Senegal, Nigeria, Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire used skin-bleaching products on a regular basis.
2. Global White Supremacy: Instigators of the White Skin Phenomenon
There are various reasons why women long for whiter skin:
- Labeling Based on Color or Race
- White Supremacy
By definition, white supremacy is a historical-based, institutionally-perpetuated system classified by people with whiter or lighter skin colors. However, such a classification is not for legitimizing racial categories. Such a classification of color is to identify particular economic, political and social conditions, which usually comes with privileges, immunities, assumptions and rights.
Historically speaking, white supremacy started in Europe and is currently operating within the United States. Since then, Caucasian characteristics, including white skin became the superior physical feature, while those who belong in the darker side of the scale were the inferior ones.
3. Melanin: Understanding the Crucial Role of this Important Pigment
Are you wondering why people come with different skin colors? Apparently, it goes beyond the category imposed by European countries centuries ago. In fact, the component responsible for your skin color is the amount of melanin you have in your body.
What is melanin anyway?
Melanin is the pigment produced by melanocytes or cells responsible for human skin color. Melanin comes in different shades of color, depending on your genetic makeup. The higher the melanin in your skin, the darker the skin color will be.
There are two basic forms of melanin:
- Eumelanin – This is the most common form of melanin and comes in brown color.
- Pheomelanin – This type of melanin produces reddish-brown color and often associated with red hair and freckles.
Generally, every individual has the same number of melanocytes in the body. The difference lies on your body’s melanin production as opposed to others. These factors affecting production of melanin are:
- Exposure to UV Radiation
- Size of Melanocytes
- Genetic Makeup
- Presence of Diseases Like Albinism and Vitiligo
These factors affect melanin production, which in turn defines the lightness or darkness of your skin.
4. Fast Forward: A Closer Look at Skin Whitening Arena Today
Since the Elizabethan times, the demand for skin lightening products is higher than ever. In fact, skin whitening is still a thing and evolved into a billion-dollar industry. African and Asian countries like the Philippines, India and Kenya are willing to pay big bucks just to get lighter skin.
Here’s the truth: there is a higher quest for skin lightening treatments these days. Many experts and skincare manufacturers have come up with products and technological advancements to help you achieve a skin tone that is two tones lighter than your actual color.
That’s not all. Media and various cosmetic companies are becoming aggressive in selling their products using women with fair skin. There are hundreds of whitening products sold in the marketplace for those who want to lighten their skin. If you think that the whitening world affects women alone, then you are mistaken. Even men are willing to line up just to correct any skin discoloration.
It goes beyond changing one’s skin color. The skin-whitening phenomenon, unfortunately, can be a source of validation and acceptance in a larger society for some people. Some people believe that the lighter your skin color, the easier it is for people and society you to accept you as a person. Hopefully, this attitude will change – and soon. Skin color is by no means a sign of where your place should be in society.
Here is the surprising part: aside from creams and lotions, there are phone-based apps dedicated to make your skin look lighter. Simply take a picture and let the filter do the trick. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
In other words, skin bleaching has become a public health crisis, just like obesity or anorexia. Believe it or not, there are many people investing in potentially-dangerous skin whitening products in the hope of a better existence.
The problem is this: skin bleaching comes with risks and side effects, too, which you will find out in the succeeding paragraphs.
5. All Good Things Come with a Price: The Effects of Skin Whitening on Your Skin and Health
You probably know this but good things often come with risks and side effects. Apparently, skin whitening products are not exempted.
Surely, these types of products have good intentions: to address any skin discoloration and even out your skin tone. There’s a catch: skin whitening creams come with side effects too, especially when used wrongly and excessively.
Some of these side effects are:
- Intense Irritation
- Uneven Bleaching
- Increased Pigmentation
- Severe Itchiness
- Allergic Reactions
- Increased Risks of Skin Cancer
- Disruption of Normal Skin Function
- Liver Damage
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Insomnia and Indigestion
Does this mean you should say no to skin whitening products? Not really, especially if your dermatologist recommended you use one to even out your skin tone.
Is there a way you can avoid these side effects?
Yes. You may run away from these risks and side effects. Just make sure you take the pills the right way and you consult a dermatologist before taking anything. Dosage, frequency and the number of days in taking pills or using creams could define the success of skin whitening.
6. Get to Know What’s in Your Favorite Skin Whitening Cream
How much do you know about your skin whitening ingredients? Do you have an idea what your favorite whitening cream contains? The bigger question is do you know the effects of these ingredients?
Here’s the truth: ingredients in skin whitening creams and lotions, when in the right amounts could address skin discoloration issues. In case you are wondering what ingredients are effective in whitening your skin, make sure it has one or more of the following ingredients:
- Hydroquinone – This is the most common ingredient you can find in whitening products. It lightens dark patches of your skin and works by preventing further discoloration. However, make sure to stick to a maximum of two percent concentration and use it for a limited time only since it could cause long-term damage.
- Kojic Acid – This is another popular skin whitening agents available in the market. It removes the outer layer of your skin and enhances cellular turnover in order to compensate for the lost tissue. Unfortunately, some of the common side effects are allergic reaction, dryness and increased sensitivity.
- Bearberry – This is another ingredient you will find in skin lightening products. It contains arbutin, an active ingredient known to naturally lighten and brighten your skin. It also comes with anti-aging benefits, which explains why it is found in many whitening products.
- Licorice – This herb creates wonders on your skin. When combined with other herbs, licorice makes your skin clearer and fairer. It also comes with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds to keep your skin in its best state.
- Vitamin C – If you are more on the natural side, then vitamin C could be your best friend. It acts as an antioxidant and fights free radicals, which cause darkening and skin aging. It also helps repair damaged skin especially after sun exposure and gets rid of dead skin cells.
- Retinol – This ingredient is a vitamin A derivative, which helps reduce dark spots, skin imperfections, and blemishes. It also helps exfoliate dead skin cells to reveal smoother, younger, and healthier skin.
These are only some of the many possible ingredients in your skin lightening creams. Some of these ingredients are available over-the-counter. Before buying anything, make sure to ask your dermatologist about it to minimize side effects, which you will read thoroughly in the succeeding paragraphs.
7. The Surprising Purpose of Skin Lightening Products
You might think that skin lightening products, such as lotions and creams sold in beauty stores will make your skin lighter. After all, that is their purpose – or at least according to the label and advertisements.
Here’s the deal about skin whitening products: most products will even out the skin tone and get rid of patches of pigmentation or discolorations on the skin. Contrary to advertisements you see on TV and print media, the purpose of skin lightening products is not to change your overall skin color.
You might be wondering: if skin-whitening products cannot change your skin color, why do dermatologists recommend them?
Dermatologists recommend ingredients such as hydroquinone to even out your skin tone. However, your dermatologist must make sure that the concentration is controlled and that you are closely monitored. This is to reduce the risk of inflammation, which could lead to further pigmentation.
The next time you see skin whitening products that promise to make you whiter, stop and think again. It could be a marketing scheme to entice you to pay for a product that may not work.
8. The Role of Media in Influencing Your Perception of Real Beauty
Let’s go back to the Leona Lewis Grazia magazine cover. The X-Factor singer did not go through skin bleaching process to change her skin color. In fact, it all boils down to photography trickery. Apparently, the lighting or the editing of pictures drastically changed her skin color.
What is the effect of the Photoshop changes on our youth?
It is not surprising to see the media glamorizing the skinny, blonde and light-skinned individuals and describe them as beautiful. It sells, after all.
On the other hand, you may not notice, but this could affect and change your perception of your body image and the real meaning of beauty. Because there is too much emphasis on light-colored women, it is not surprising that children, especially in developing countries, associate beauty with white color.
You have to commend Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign for changing a woman’s perception of what beauty is and what it should be.
9. Reality Check: The Role of Black Celebrities in Hollywood Movies
If there is something you can be thankful for about living now, then it is the society’s ability to accept changes and be open-minded about it.
Rewind few years ago, black women in Hollywood rarely get the lead role. Most of the time, they play nanny or jezebel with limited screen time – in case they are lucky.
Fast forward today, people are recognizing the talent and wit of individuals with darker skin. From sports to entertainment to various professional fields and even the current president of the United States, there is already a representation. Finally, people are starting to look past the skin color.
There are still people who tend to discriminate based on one’s skin color. Don’t worry. There are more people who are more understanding and open-minded than them so don’t worry.
10. Pigmentocracy: Where Wealth and Social Status Comes With Skin Color
Have you heard of the Indian caste system? It represents the hierarchy starting from priests and scholars then down to laborers and servants. Let’s apply this concept to skin color.
This is pigmentocracy. It is a termed coined by scientists to describe societies associating wealth, power and social status with skin color. This means white people are on top, while those who belong at the darker side are at the bottom of the pyramid. This could also date back to a time in history where black individuals were slaves while the white ones, usually the powerful and influential, are on top.
Because of this, there is a higher demand for whitening products in countries where brown and black are the dominant skin colors. The good news is the caste system in skin color rarely applies in most societies. Slowly, people are becoming less discriminating and starting to accept that beauty is more than just fair skin.
11. Applying the Principle of Colorblindness in Skin Color
Color blindness is the inability or difficulty in perceiving and identifying color differences under normal lighting conditions. This affects approximately one in every 12 men or one in 200 women. Most people who have deficient color vision are unable to see the color fully and in extreme cases, unable to see any color at all.
Why not apply this concept of color blindness in human skin color to be able to see the real beauty?
In relation to your skin, the idea of being colorblind means to adopt a non-confrontational method of denial and to encourage persistence of colorism. This means you have to look past the skin color of a person, including yourself.
This might also be the reason why Lupita Nyong’o became an epitome of a modern black beauty. She defied the discriminatory hierarchy in Hollywood where white celebrities with blue eyes and blonde or light brown hair once ruled the planet.
12. Dark is Beautiful: A Campaign Against All Odds and White Beauty
How many times have you seen the media glorify women with black skin? Despite the win of Miss Angola in Miss Universe and the entry of Lupita Nyong’o in Hollywood, darker-skinned individuals rarely share the limelight with Caucasians.
Because of this, some Bollywood celebrities are taking a stand and campaigning for “Dark is Beautiful.”
What is this campaign all about?
This campaign raises awareness on the unjust effects of skin color and at the same time, to celebrate beauty and diversity of skin tone. Consequently, the focus of the campaign is to educate and empower consumers just like you to make wise choices when it comes to skincare products.
Here’s the thing: how many campaigns and organizations should one establish before you realize that white is not necessarily beautiful? The truth is you don’t need fair skin just to show the world how beautiful you are. Learn about changing your perception on beauty in the next section.
13. Dare to be Different and Find the Lupita Nyong’o In You
Her skin may not be the fairest of them all but Lupita Nyong’o truly deserves to be one of the most beautiful. During her interview with People magazine, she never thought she would be touted as Most Beautiful. After all, her idea of real beauty is “light skin and long, flowing, straight hair.”
You too can find and unleash the Lupita Nyong’o in you. You don’t need pure white skin, blue eyes and long, flowing locks to be beautiful. Your hair doesn’t have to be blonde, and you don’t need a one-year supply of skin lightening products just to let the whole world know that you are beautiful.
The truth is it’s all about perception. Here are tips to help you change your perception about real beauty – and make you realize that you are beautiful regardless of skin color:
- Trust your own perceptions. Don’t be fooled by media and advertisements that tell you white is beautiful.
- Use your maturity and experience to broaden your perception of what real beauty is.
- Choose realistic models.
- Focus on the personality, not just on your outside appearance.
Aside from this, here is an important tip to remember when it comes to skin whitening.
14. Learn to Accept Skin Color, Regardless of Where You Are in the Scale
Humans are different from each other. This includes skin color. Aside from changing your perception of real beauty, you also need to learn how to accept the color of your skin.
Here’s something you should remember: you are beautiful – and it’s not because you are white, yellow-skinned or have dark skin. To help you accept your skin color, here’s what you can do:
- Choose colors that match your skin well.
- Smile, it is the simplest yet most effective form of makeup.
- Treat yourself right and love yourself.
15. Essential Tips and Facts to Remember about Skin Whitening
Let’s say you still decide to go for whitening products because you want to get rid of patches on your skin. After all, your dermatologist gave you the go signal.
In this case, here are things you should remember:
- Make sure to read the fine print in advertisements. This includes ingredients enumerated, studies and clinical data cited, and claims made by manufacturers.
- Only go for whitening ingredients that work, such as hydroquinone and retinoic acid.
- Always use products that complement each other.
- Your skincare routine is crucial. This includes applying sunscreen, regular exfoliation to remove dead skin cells, and moisturizing your skin regularly.
- Follow your dermatologist’s instructions including dosage, frequency, and how long you should use the creams or take the whitening pills.
You may be living in the 21st century, but up to this day, issues from the past will continue to haunt you. This includes the quest for whiter skin.
Thankfully, people are slowly accepting the fact that white skin is not necessarily beautiful. Keep these 15 eye-opening facts in mind and always remember that you are beautiful regardless of your skin color.