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Around the world, millions of women are turning to skin whitening products in order to have fairer skin. Either from Africa or Asia, these women all have one goal: To have white skin. Skin whitening isn’t new in today’s society;  the world’s obsession with whitening skin can be dated back to the Elizabethan age. During that time, people utilized powder or paint in order to have ideal white features.

Today, many countries in Asia and Africa promote skin whitening products and many women have skin cream or get their skin bleached. In Africa, for example, one out of every three women bleach their skin in order to have “white skin.” One woman, Ms Mnisi, has had a number of different skin whitening treatments.

“Yes, part of it is a self-esteem issue and I have addressed that and I am happy now. I’m not white inside, I’m not really fluent in English, I have black kids. I’m a township girl, I’ve just changed the way I look on the outside.”

Ms Mnisi is one of the many African women who feel like they are prettier because they have white skin. Though these women are true to their African culture, they wanted to see what their life would be like without Black skin. However, skin whitening is associated with many different dangers. According to Dr. Lester Davids, a senior researcher, skin whitening products can lead to health problems such as leukemia, liver cancer, and/or kidney cancer. Since many Africans don’t know the truth about the dangerous effects that skin whitening can have, they continue to use the bleach and different creams (legal or illegal) that are sold in many local markets. In the span of six years, the number of people using skin whitening products in Africa has dramatically increased.

Women in Africa are seen as much more beautiful and have a higher chance of getting married based off how white their skin is. Researchers have seen that many people are complaining of damaged skin after applying skin whitening products for years. Many countries in Africa have banned the skin whitening products but they are still sold in markets. 77% of Nigerian women use these toxic products regularly, 59% in Togo, and 35% in South Africa. Jackson Marcelle, a hair stylist in Congo, has been utilizing “special injections” in order to whiten his skin. He says,

“I pray every day and I ask God, ‘God why did you make me black?’ I don’t like being black. I don’t like black skin,” he tells me.


Skin lightening products in a salon in Africa

He mentions that he doesn’t want to look Black because he doesn’t like associating with Black people. He feels that White people are much better and wants to look like them. He is not the only one who thinks this way. Many Africans view that since their skin is dark, they are far less important than White people.

This problem continues to exist in countries such as India as well. India is infamously known for whitening skin on celebrities in movies, commercials, and shows. Celebrities are also always seen advertising skin whitening products. India’s most famous whitening cream is called, “Fair and Lovely.” This cream has made more than 450 million dollars throughout India. Not only do they make whitening creams for women, they have started a brand called “Fair and Handsome.” This brand encourages men to whiten their skin as well. This use of toxic creams comes out of the fact that Indians in India, and outside of India, think girls are much prettier and worthier if they have lighter skin.

One of the most famous actors in India, Shah Rukh Khan, has been a major part of the fairness cream’s advertising. He, and many other famous celebrities in India promote this skin product.

Shah Rukh Khan advertising Fair and Handsome

Today, many celebrities in India are being criticized for promoting such a harmful product. On the other hand, millions of people still continue to use whitening products. Looking down upon darker skin leads towards damaging your health, and these skin products should be illegal throughout these countries.

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Arusha Kumria
Written By

Arusha Kumria is an Indian-American 17 year old from New York. In her free time she likes to read and write. She is very passionate about women's rights and equality.

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