Why bleaching the skin is simply more than skin deep

20 Feb

Ok, ok this is a complete deviation to things pertaining to urban, but I needed to get this one off my chest!
Skin bleaching is not a new phenomenon. It is popular within the Black and Asian communities and has been so for many years. Unlike most cosmetic alterations to the body, bleaching is irreversible and if done incorrectly, could lead to undesired consequences. Why bleaching has become such a hot topic in the urban world, is because dancehall legend Vibez Kartel has admitted to bleaching his skin. Whilst bleaching is typically done by women, there are a handful of men who also are known to have bleached their skin.
It could be argued that bleaching is no different to white people who enjoy tanning. After all, the aim is to alter the skin pigmentation to be either darker or lighter. Whilst this may be true, there seems to be a deeper psychology for people with dark complexions, it is as if being lighter would deem them being more beautiful or accepted.
Skin complexion has always been something of an issue in black communities all over the world. It wasn’t until recently that Brazilians who were of dark complexion are now considering themselves to black or indigenous. In the past, descriptions such as ‘latte’ or ‘burnt coffee’ would suffice in describing their complexion. In certain areas in Dominican Republic being dark and having an afro is tantamount to ugliness. It’s as if black people were running away from being black in order to feel human. In Nigeria, there is the notion that being fair skinned equates to being beautiful.
This unfortunate mindset goes back to the days of slavery and colonization where the lighter you were the more closer you were to being white and thus being more ‘civilised and human’.
Vibez Kartel has argued that his bleaching was simply for looking better and to show off his dark tattoos (yes, really), but even if this were the case, what message is he really conveying? That being dark skinned is not good enough and to be lighter really means to be beautiful?
As the cliché goes, eveyone is beautiful from every race, but time and time again messages conveyed by the media seeks to portray the infamous ‘lighter is better’ image thus effecting the self esteem of many people in Black and Asian communities, we don’t need to see our own also purporting this propaganda.
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2 Responses to “Why bleaching the skin is simply more than skin deep”

  1. tn_jenkins November 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    I’d agree that whiteness is held as an ideal around the media-driven world. You’d be hard pressed to find a skin product in Korea that isn’t made “with whitening.”

    Also, I’d say that the biggest difference between tanning and bleaching is that while one is seasonal, the other is permanent. Because of that issue, psychological issues come into play.

    But melanin is a protective agent against skin damage from the sun. And skin damage caused by the sun contributes to premature aging and skin disease. When you think about it, evolutionary-wise, darker skin is a genetic trait to be desired.

    • Urbana Junkie November 16, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

      Hi tn_jenkins! Regarding the difference between bleaching and tanning I totally agree with this. How people can glibly compare the two is beyond me! Bleaching the skin is damaging full stop. The fact that it is encouraged in many cultures is quite sad.
      Yes the darker you are the more protected you are against skin damage, though we should all use sun tan lotion 🙂

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