culture

A Generation Of Chameleons – The Skin Bleaching Craze

**Also find this article in the latest issue of Viper Magazine here!**

Since I was a youngling I’ve been captivated by the bright lights of the pop world. Staring out at me from the TV, I was hooked by the make-up, racy outfits, suggestive dance moves and beauty of my favourite female icons. I would mimic their moves, change my hairstyle and even maybe my attitude. However, there was a change that happened that went without consideration or contemplation, my skin colour. Never has skin whitening been so popular, with the global market for such products projecting to $19.8 billion dollars by 2018.

I’m sure by now, you would of heard multiple comments regarding Beyonce’s change in skin colour throughout the years. A photo of Beyonce shot for an advertisement for her album 4 in 2011 caused controversy for her noticeable change in skin colour which was later put down to a lighting issue. Also in 2008, an allegation was made towards L’Oreal for ‘whitewashing’ the star in one of their campaigns. Critics claimed they had digitally lightened her skin and could have the effect of making darker-skinned black girls ashamed of how they look. L’Oreal denied the pictures had been altered in such a way and Beyonce has never spoken about this topic. However, it has been alleged that her father Matthew Knowles, in the early days of Destiny’s Child; had encouraged her to use skin whitening products.

Other black celebrities who have been picked up for the noticeable change in skin colour throughout the years include Lil Kim, Tamar Braxton, Vybz Cartel, and of course, Michael Jackson, but that’s not for now. Vybz Cartel is fully open to admitting that he lightens his skin using some type of ‘cake soap AKA blue soap’ and has even pushed forward his very own brand of soap. Sales for this soap in Jamaica rocketed when Vybz claimed it lightened the skin. However, Vybz does defend his beauty regime and explains that he sees lightening your skin as no different to straightening your hair or getting a tan. He states,

“When black women stop straightening their hair and wearing wigs and weaves, when white women stop getting lip and butt injections and implants … then I’ll stop using the ‘cake soap’ and we’ll all live naturally ever after.”

And it’s not just celebrities who are supporting the trend. Skin whitening has never been so popular in some parts of Africa, with a recent increase in women even bleaching their children’s skin to supposedly make them appear more attractive. Skin lightening products contain dangerous toxic substances that can lead to kidney failure, diabetes and even death. Sure, skin lightening has been around for quite some time now, but new crazes and ways of changing ones skin colour has never been so widely invasive and dangerous.

And it’s not just skin whitening that’s the worry. Every culture is going crazy for a different skin shade. Caucasian people who want a darker skin tone, both men are women, are spraying themselves up with chemicals, burning their skin using coffin sun beds and even using the latest ‘tanning technology’ and getting lethal tanning injections or in-taking tanning pills which dye you from the inside out. It seems like Europe is currently experiencing a boom in cosmetic surgery’s and skin altering products with young females currently idolising blow up doll like celebrities such as Kim Kardashian.

Botox for plumper more exotic lips has never been so popular within the younger generation able to purchase an injection for around £50 in some nail salons. Even having a larger derrière is the current hot thing and some women in both the US and UK are going as far to have ass injections in order to have a more perked and all around bigger behind. Long gone are the days of padded bras. Go into any women’s wear store today and you’ll find gel padded pants for a bigger bum, waist trainers that prohibit your breathing whilst exercising (which have been concluded to not work in the long term by the way) and many other body shaping undergarments which essentially are used to disguise your true natural form. There are now so many different types of fillers and treatments it’s actually shocking to think any female can feel good about themselves without having any of these treatments put upon them. If it makes you look more unnatural and less like your true self, females will want to hear about it.

Interestingly, it wasn’t till the 1920’s, when fashion icon Coco Chanel was spotted returning from a cruise with freshly tanned skin that people started to consider being tanned was more of a luxurious look then maintaining the pale and ‘well kept’ look. After that of course, it’s been nothing but basting yourself in oil to sunbathe and trips to tanning salon to gain a crispy bacon like look. It appears every race wants to be the opposite of what they are. Where some African and Caribbean people deem beauty to be a Western light skinned look, others in Europe strive for plumper lips and darker skin to create an exotic and sun kissed look.

Asian cultures are also known to prefer the lighter skin tone and various skin bleaching products are widely available all over Asia on shelves in your standard supermarket and generally carry little to no controversy.In South East Asia, China and Japan, maintaining a fair and pale complexion re-asserts wealth, beauty and social economic status and has been this way from as early as the 17th and 18th century. Even companies such as Nivea have created Nivea’s Extra White & Firm Q10 Deodorant that sells in many stores all over Asia, and contains skin whitening ingredients that allow Oriental women to lightening their underarm skin. Surprisingly, even supposed ethical companies such as The Body Shop. sell a product called Moisture White Shiso which is a make up base that promises “fairer looking skin in an instant.” The skin-lightening market in Asia alone is valued at over £8 billion pounds and shows absolutely no signs of stopping. Skin whitening commercials are widely seen all over Asia and online and are targeted at both men, women and teenagers.

What’s crazy but sadly real is that we’re a generation of chameleons. This is a self-denying generation and the problem is deep rooted within all of our ancestors and the early makings of civilisations fighting for who’s on top. It seems it has been this way forever but today’s attitude towards changing your skin colour has somewhat of an ignorant, vain and submissive air to it, and one that needs to be looked at with fresh eyes. We’re not entirely sure of ourselves, but we know we need to change. Never have people strived so much to look different from their original avatar. Everyone wants what they don’t have and never has surgery or enhancements been such an easy option for the masses. It’s so important for us to embrace who and what we are. And if we cannot love our skin colour how can we ever truly love ourselves.

‘Fair and Lovely’ is one of the leading skin whitening beauty brands in the South and Southeast Asian region.

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