Vaseline have launched a Facebook application for their range of skin lightening creams targeted at Indian ‘metrosexual’ men, which lightens half the face to show how much fairer they can look. This has of course caused much fuss:
The vehicle Vaseline have used is wrong. To have something as trivial as a Facebook App to show you how much ‘better’ you look with ‘lighter skin’ reduces something that is quite serious and a big commitment (changing your skin colour!) to no more than a ‘Girls World Makeover’ type Nintendo DS game.
Don’t forget there are all sorts of connotations linked with the idea that whiter, lighter skin equals more attractiveness and wealth (ie. an old fashioned point of view is that poorer people have to do lots of outdoor manual work and are more likely to get dark in the sun).
And it isn’t just Indian men of course; all over Asia skin lightening is big business and is incorporated into mainstream products. For example, the last face wash and SPF I bought from Japan had ‘whitening’ properties in it and some of our mainstream UK brands like Boots and The Body Shop also cash in, launching whitening ranges in Asia.
More disturbingly, I saw a documentary just the other day where women in Jamaica were buying dangerous skin bleaching products. After years of continuous use, their once smooth skin was painful, blotchy, scarred, blistered but felt unable to stop using the (banned) creams.
That is the super crappy side of skin lightening. Obviously, when big brands launch whitening ranges, they will test their products for safety first.
But on the other hand, I am troubled…is it pot calling kettle black, when people are condemned for wanting to be whiter when millions is spent on fake tan ever year, to get pale skinned lasses darker? How come people who are dark and want to be whiter can be judged but not women who want to be permanently 5 shades darker?
Is a (safe) whitening product just as valid as a fake tan product?
How come if someone who is not Caucasian wants to be whiter (or indeed, dye their hair lighter, or change their appearance in a way that is deemed as ‘Western’) they are immediately considered to be insecure with their race? What if, just like the religious fake tanners, they just want to look prettier (or whatever they perceive as prettier) but are totally comfortable with their race and identity?
Or, if as a non caucasian person, if you choose to wear blue contacts over your brown eyes, dye your hair blonde and whiten your skin…are you always, basically, rejecting your race?
I’m not completely sure what I think on this subject but I don’t think it’s necessarily as simple as condemning all (safe) whitening/brightening products.
On a personal level, I think fake tan is ok, although I will never be a fan of orange or the dirty face look, but I also think brightening* products (that improve the clarity of the skin and prevent further pigmentation) are quite good although I don’t use either on a regular basis.
What are your views?
*Not whitening – I wouldn’t risk patchy skin for any brand!