What is the colour of beauty?
Depends on where you are really.
As a young black woman in West Africa there has been a quiet trend that has become amplified over the last few years: the ‘Bleach’ trend. When I was growing up, I knew of only a couple of women who changed their skin tone with the use of cosmetic products; but as a young woman now, it has become the rule rather than the exception. We even have a slang term for it, ‘Njansang‘ after a popular local spice. I don’t have the exact values but I think it’s fair to say that about 8 in every 10 women has used some form of ‘Skin Brightening’ product or another.
The number of cosmetic products flooding our markets promising to give us ‘perfect’ white skin in the shortest possible time is frankly alarming.
In some cultures, fair skin has always been glorified like the Igbos in Nigeria and don’t you forget the influence of western culture. Dark skin has always been linked with negative connotations like slavery, apartheid, civil rights etc. So why do we feel the need to change our skin tone even where everyone else is dark-skinned? Definitely not to blend in.
The Politics of Our Skin
As one of the members of the #BodyTalk Chat group puts it:
I think the colour of beauty is the lost controversial thing in this flimsiness called ‘the what we look’. The debate on colour especially different shades of the black colour has been embarrassing and insulting to all black women. In Cameroon I realize that having a fair shade is preferential, but most US companies have to use a darker shade if they don’t want to be criticized. There are places where a fair shade is not black enough and then other places like our country and mostly Nigeria, where a dark shade is just simply put ‘not attractive enough’. We are all black at the end of the day enjoying the same discriminatory racism and insecurity.
So why so much politics around the colour of our skin?
To me there’s just one colour: Black, white is the absence of colour . Though we have different shades of black, it’s that diversity that makes us uniquely beautiful. You don’t need to be fairer to look better, because no one has your exact colour and that colour reflects your real beauty and glamour.
When it comes to skin, that is actually true (the white and black part). Leave the physics out of it hihi.
The saying “if she were a little fairer, how much prettier she will be” totally freaks me out because she is not an error and shouldn’t have to “change” to be better. The very ones who want her a little prettier will be the same to condemn her if she dared to cream/bleach .To me, color is most beautiful when it’s original.
Fairer, but at what Cost?
The Extract below is taken from Our Bodies, Ourselves and will be part of a longer article on the dangers of skin bleaching:
Today, women of color around the world apply skin-whitening creams either to lighten or to even their complexions. Some contain mercury, a known toxin that blocks the melanin that gives skin pigmentation.
Two common active ingredients used in skin-lightening creams are corticosteroids (such as hydrocortisone), which can make the skin more thin and fragile over time and cause excess hair growth and skin rashes and infections, and hydroquinone, which may act as a carcinogen or cancer-causing chemical, although its cancer-causing properties have yet to be proved in humans. Hydroquinone also has been linked with the medical condition ochronosis, which causes the skin to become dark and thick.
Looking at a ‘Brighter’ Future
It’s time we rethink how we see the colour of our skin and ask searching questions about the influences around us: media, society and our own personal misconceptions.
The worst part of this body and colour shaming generally comes from us women and that is very sad. Any woman who has felt uncomfortable with any part of her body must have at some point been insulted or criticized by a family member or friend. I think all of this talking should lead to some resolution for women to be kinder to other women. We can start by being kind to our and other People’s little girls. They will learn to be a pillar for other women.
Couldn’t have said it better 🙂
I leave you with a beautiful speech given by the actress Lupita N’yongo (never heard of her? Have you been living under a rock?) on Black Beauty.
Until next time, stay beautiful!