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Skin bleaching: What is behind unusual trend?

Is a lighter complexion better?

Isabell Rivera OW Contributor | 7/25/2019, midnight

“It’s bleaching cream that I apply before going to bed and whitens my skin tone,” he told Univision’s “Premier Impacto” television show in 2009. “It’s a cream that I have, that I use to soften my skin, but has bleached me some. I’m not a racist. I live life happily.”

While many products are banned from being sold in the EU or the U.S., they can still be manufactured for export. It’s a booming business, which is projected to reach $31.2 billion by 2024, according to Global Industry Analysts reports in 2018.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 40 percent of women surveyed in China (Province of Taiwan and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region), Malaysia, the Philippines and the Republic of Korea, reported to use skin lighteners in 2004.

Some countries show an even higher percentage: 59 percent in Togo, 35 percent in South Africa, 27 percent in Senegal and 25 percent in Mali.

“The skin-lightening phenomenon is a nuanced one,” Shingi Mtero, a lecturer at Rhodes University in South Africa, who teaches a course on the politics of skin bleaching said. “Whiteness has been elevated and presented as a universal standard of progress. When people say it’s about Whiteness, it’s not necessarily to physically be White, it’s about wanting to access things White people have easy access to—privileges, economic and social status.”

According to author and science reporter for The Washington Post, Shankar Vedantam, who told the New York Times in 2010 that.

“Dozens of research studies have shown that skin tone and other racial features play powerful roles in who gets ahead and who does not. These factors regularly determine who gets hired, who gets convicted and who gets elected.”

Colorism is also an issue in India, where skin bleaching is popular as well.

The stigma and bias that involve darker skin to be inferior and the cultural perception that values a lighter skin tone to be the key to money and success, exist in different cultures.

According to an article written by Monisha Rajesh (2013) for The Guardian, “Indians are very racist. There is so much pressure that perpetuates this idea that fair is the ideal.”

In 2010, India's whitening-cream market was worth $432 million, according to a report by market researchers ACNielsen, and was growing at 18 percent per year.

The WHO reported that, 61 percent of the dermatological market in India consists of skin lightening products. And although the market is widely catered to women, it has also attracted a lot of men. Many Bollywood stars admit using skin bleaching creams.

Jamaica is another place where skin bleaching is praised by men and women.

However, the colorism in Jamaica tends to come from men towards women, although many men bleach their skin as well. Jamaican dancehall rapper Grace Latoya Hamilton known professionally as Spice doesn’t see eye to eye with fellow rapper Vybz Kartel when it comes to skin bleaching. In her latest release “Black Hypocrisy” she tackles on the prejudice she’s dealing with from other Blacks, especially men who favor “Brown skin.” In the song, she shares her experience growing up.

In a VH1 interview she said, “she would reach further if the color of her skin was lighter” and that she “was made to feel inferior because society said brown girls look prettier.”

Vybz Kartel, whose birth name is Adidja Azim Palmeron compared skin bleaching to the tanning White people do, but has now stopped using the creams himself. He said he wanted to show off his tattoos, since they look better on lighter skin.