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Skin Bleach, Colorism, And Societies’ Impact

Last updated on August 17, 2019

Skin bleaching is a booming business today (Refinery29 stated its estimated to grow to a $24 billion business) despite the risk involved in it, but why? What compels people to buy creams, pills, and laser treatments despite the risks?

In an article by Refinery29, they spoke to a young girl named Inna Samson, who began bleaching her skin when she was fifteen due to the pressuring and teasing she experienced as a result of her complexion. She was called a monkey and received stinging comments from her family and classmates. It ingrained her this belief that if she was lighter she would be better. This mindset is what skin whitening brands rely on.

So, what is the reason behind the colorism used to demean Samson? Well, that’s a long and complicated history that spans across the globe. According to Colorism.org, American slaves who were lighter (of visible white ancestry) received better treatment and food. This continued after slavery, with lighter people getting the chance for a good education or job. You can also find colorism in literature from around the world.

Take an ancient Indian scripture that, according to Colorismhealing.org, places a fair-skinned King as the hero while the dark skinned King was the villain. The idea that darkness is inherently bad is a deeply embedded aspect of literature, culture and film / TV (darker women have historically been portrayed as aggressive and loud while lighter women have been portrayed as beautiful and sought after). When you look at these things you understand why someone would go to such extremes to change themselves.

The question is: how do you dismantle an industry that preys on insecurities that have been ingrained in people for centuries. This isn’t a problem in one or two places, it’s in Jamaica, South Korea, the Philippines, China, Malaysia, and Nigeria (77% of Nigerian women). It’s convinced them to use chemicals that (according to Webmd) increases your chance of getting skin cancer, skin thinning, irritation, etc.

Skin bleaching is a booming business today (Refinery29 stated its estimated to grow to a $24 billion business) despite the risk involved in it, but why? What compels people to buy creams, pills, and laser treatments despite the risks?

In an article by Refinery29, they spoke to a young girl named Inna Samson, who began bleaching her skin when she was fifteen due to the pressuring and teasing she experienced as a result of her complexion. She was called a monkey and received stinging comments from her family and classmates. It ingrained her this belief that if she was lighter she would be better. This mindset is what skin whitening brands rely on.

So, what is the reason behind the colorism used to demean Samson? Well, that’s a long and complicated history that spans across the globe. According to Colorism.org, American slaves who were lighter (of visible white ancestry) received better treatment and food. This continued after slavery, with lighter people getting the chance for a good education or job. You can also find colorism in literature from around the world.

Take an ancient Indian scripture that, according to Colorismhealing.org, places a fair-skinned King as the hero while the dark skinned King was the villain. The idea that darkness is inherently bad is a deeply embedded aspect of literature, culture and film / TV (darker women have historically been portrayed as aggressive and loud while lighter women have been portrayed as beautiful and sought after). When you look at these things you understand why someone would go to such extremes to change themselves.

The question is: how do you dismantle an industry that preys on insecurities that have been ingrained in people for centuries. This isn’t a problem in one or two places, it’s in Jamaica, South Korea, the Philippines, China, Malaysia, and Nigeria (77% of Nigerian women).

The fact of the matter is that society has pressured brown and black people into feeling that there is something ugly and negative in their skin tone. It’s convinced them to use chemicals that (according to Webmd) increases your chance of getting skin cancer, skin thinning, irritation, etc. As a society, we have to accept being heavily impacted by centuries of social conditioning and let go of it.

Your skin is just your skin, it doesn’t determine your personality or heart. People may stop bleaching if others stop buying into the idea that dark is bad.

Your skin is just your skin, it doesn’t determine your personality or heart. People may stop bleaching if others stop buying into the idea that dark is bad.

Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not reflect the stance TheWorker Tribune takes on this issue. TheWorker Tribune seeks to include as many perspectives possible regarding even the most controversial subject matters.

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