Is there pressure to be white? When it comes to skin bleaching, quite a few people have something to say about it. There have been numerous documentaries that are available to watch regarding the matter that have a range of individuals that share their stories. Additionally, recently, Blac Chyna made headlines for becoming the face of a new product that launched in Nigeria on November 25, 2018 that is said to be selling at $250 a jar. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) a whooping 77 percent of Nigerian women use bleaching products, and are also said to be the highest percentage among skin bleaching users in the WORLD!
Some products for skin bleaching can contain toxic mercury, such as mercury(II) chloride or ammoniated mercury as the active ingredient. However, mercury has been banned in most countries for use in skin whitening (1976 in Europe, 1990 in the USA) because it accumulates on skin and it can have the opposite results in the long term. As late as January 2016, the FDA published a warning not to use a particular brand of whitener – Viansilk’s “Crema Piel De Seda” (“Silky Skin Cream”), sold in the United States due to its mercury content.
Let’s talk about the alleged pressure however. From my prospective, there is none. There may be an internalized notion and/or belief that if one is to lighten/whiten their skin that they would be more desired. Even for the latter, the root cause still seems to be the desire to please and/or appeal to others in order to feel/be validated. I won’t go as far as others to say that if someone does bleach/lighten/whiten their skin that they “hate themselves,” however for me, I personally and frankly feel it’s sad. It’s saddening that individuals feel they NEED to alter themselves so drastically in order to be deemed appealing by SOMEONE ELSE!
There is a market for individuals who feel the need to do so though. As of 2013 the global market for skin lighteners was projected to reach $19.8 billion (US) by the end of 2018 based on sales growth primarily in Africa, Indian-Asia, and the Middle East. I like to take this time to point out that this is not solely a Black/African-American issue. Japan accounts for about 21% of skin-lightening product sales in Asia. Additionally, while there are no exact statistics I could find, based on statistics from the Ministry of Justice, it could be estimated that black individuals account for 0.02% of the population in Japan. I hardly doubt such a small population accounts for 21% of skin-lightening product sales though.
“With higher concentrations of the chemicals such as hydroquinone, there have been reports of the development of exogenous ochronosis, or the darkening of the skin which is permanent and very resistant to any treatment,” Dr. Kassim explains. Though there is a possibility that this skin reaction can develop with lower doses, the risks are increased when the dose is higher.” Dr. Kassim, Board-Certified Dermatologist and Cosmetic Dermatologist in The Derm Group’s Morristown office, also suggest “for less extreme cases of skin tone unevenness, a simple peel or daily exfoliant may do the trick. If money is not a problem, look for toxin-free skin lightening products currently available on the market: They tend to cost a bit more because they have expensive ingredients, but they may be less abrasive and harmful.” He’s a dermatologist though so at the end of the day, he’s in the business as well as far as I’m concerned.
Overuse of skin whiteners can also cause pigmentation to build up in your extremities (fingers, toes, ears etc), causing them to look darker and mismatched. Yet another negative reaction can develop known as the “bleach panda effect”, where the skin on the face becomes thinned around the eyes and have increased pigmentation. Cute on a panda, not so much on a human.
My final thoughts are this, while some may equate skin-bleaching to other cosmetic procedures, I still apply the same notion to the majority of individuals that fall into such category. Before you go and get your undergarments in a bunch, I don’t have an issue with CERTAIN cosmetic procedures. Particularly, if you’re TRULY doing it for yourself and/or if it’s a medical necessity (fixing someone’s accidental broken nose for example). I believe it’s dangerous territory you begin to navigate when you place your happiness in the hands of others. I also believe that no amount of surgery, bleaching, peeling, etc will make anyone absolutely perfect. There is tons of evidence of this; just look at some of the comments made about someone of the most universally attractive people in the world. Someone out there, while possibly a minority in opinion, consider said universally attractive individuals as unattractive or not their type.
Most of us, are all physically “ugly” to someone. Not deemed as attractive, sexy, and what have you not. Why do we care though? Why do YOU care? Those are the more important questions you should ask yourself before you start augmenting your body. Be VERY aware of EVERY risk, EVERY ingredient you put on or in your body because, like mercury, some are known to be carcinogenic. You could have unknown side-effects to some ingredient and next thing you know, your skin is permanently black; the opposite intended effect you had in the first place.
I can’t tell you how to make yourself happy. I can suggest outlets in which may create a path in developing and obtaining your own self-happiness. Honestly though, it’s a process YOU must start, endure, and continuously actively up-keep. It took me almost a decade to really get to the point of: If I had to die alone, I rather that than to be with anyone that tries to change me physically. I’m not a “Build-A-Bear” or some science project. Quite honestly, if I had listened to people over the years, I probably would be dead due to a steroid overdose (apparently I’m too skinny for most people and I need to eat). If I do EVER change anything on my body (which I have never had any cosmetic procedures) then I will do it for MYSELF because that’s what I feel I need.
Always ask yourself, those same people telling you to change your skin, nose, body, etc, who are they to you REALLY? Ask yourself, do you HONESTLY feel such individuals will be in your life forever? Do they contribute ANYTHING POSITIVE to your life AT THIS MOMENT? Have they ever? I can honestly tell you, every person that ever made a negative comment about me physically is not in any shape or form surrounded by me, or in my life. You do have the ability to control A LOT of things you consume and surrounded yourself with. Do YOURSELF justice, because honestly, there are some people hoping you’ll be seduced by the opinions of others in order to feed into their pockets and the global market. Prioritize YOUR happiness because it is after all no one else’s job to make you happy and I strongly encourage anyone who feels that their happiness lies in the eyes and hands of others, to seek professional help. You are worthy, but YOU have to believe you are.
- Alex N. Wanderland