Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive


Lighten Up

I thought that the practice of
skin-whitening / skin bleaching had ended with the 1980s but apparently not
so.   According to Amina Mire writing in
this weeks Counter Punch
, " there is an emerging skin-whitening industry" where expensive skin bleaching products are being marketed
as anti-aging creams for white women  with promises to “restore” and “transform”
aging skins
, and as skin lightening creams with the promise of “White Perfect”
for Asian women which is the second largest market after white women. Black women are using the creams less, however when they are used they tend to
be the cheaper and therefore more toxic variety. African women who have chosen to use
skin-bleaching creams have very often suffered devastating disfigurement from
the toxicity of the creams as well as condemnation by society at large. However before we condemn the many Black and
African women who have chosen to use the creams we should note that even today
many communities believe the lighter the skin the better especially in
women. It may not be as overt as say 50
years ago but the colour / hair complex and associated colonial mentality within
our communities still exits.

The article is interesting as it provides a
brief history and background to the skin-bleaching industry which originally
was targeted at both Black women and southern white women in the US as early as 1889
for whom it was marketed as 

white person objects to a swarthy brown-hued or mulatto like skin, therefore if
staying much out of doors use regularly Satin Skin Vanishing Greaseless Cream
to keep the skin normally white”

“Dark” skinned southern and eastern
Europeans were another target market for whom the bleaching creams helped them to  pass
for “white” northern European just in case they did not appear white enough
in a country where “invisible blackness” existed (light skinned Blacks
‘passing’ for whites).  For these women
using the creams could be seen as part of an acceptable day to day beauty
routine. Whereas for Black women there
was no hiding from the “whitening” aspect of the creams which at any rate would
be a giveaway once the hands or other body parts were visible not to talk of
their African features.  

Another interesting aspect of the
skin-whitening market is that the media have always discussed it in the context
of Black women and the terrible damage the creams cause rather than as a global
practice by women of all skin shades and races. Nonetheless the damage to Black women has resulted in the 

“marketing around the world, of a new and,
conceivably, ‘safer’ but high expensive skin-whitening commodities and
combatant technologies”. The main target
of these expensive creams are wealthy Asian women to “modify skin tone” and to
equally rich white women as an “anti-aging therapy”. What is strange to my mind is that creams containing 2 % hydroquione that have
caused damage to African women are now  being used as anit-aging cream for white women
with double the amount of hydroquione. One such cream called “Lustre” is made by a  US pharmaceutical company and is sold in beauty salons and dermatology offices in the US.

Mire also makes the connection between the
pharmaceutical industry and the cosmetic industry. Transnational biotechnology, pharmaceutical
and cosmetics corporations are engaged in the research and development and mass
marketing of a plethora of new forms of skin-whitening products which can
bleach out” the “dark skin tones of women of colour and can remove corporeal
evidence of anti-aging processes, unhealthy life-styles and overall pollution
from the skin of white women

In short a one stop solution that cuts
across racial, class and lifestyle boundaries that plays to both the desire for
eternal youth and racial superiority. 

The largest cosmetic company in the world
is L’Oreal who also serve as a prime
example of the pharmaceutical, cosmetic industry link; in this case between
L’Oreal and Sanofi-Synthelabo which is the third largest pharmaceutical company
after Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. (Incidentally
L’Oreal still uses animals in its research laboratories.)  Naturewatch    

In this way L’Oreal is able to blur the
distinction between cosmetics and pharmaceutics which as Mire points out has
“serious social, medical and political implications”. The accompanying advertising is a mix of pharmaceutics,
cosmetics and straight up racism.  For  example, Vichy, a L’Oreal subsidiary that is a pharmaceutics / cosmetics mix is able to market
skin lightening as “skincare biomedicine”.   To advertise their product “BI-White” they show a supposedly

"Asian woman peeling off her black facial skin with a
zipper. As her black skin is removed a
new ‘smooth’, ‘whitened’ skin with no blemishes takes its place. The implications of this image are blunt and
chilling. Blackness is false, dirty and
ugly. Whiteness is true, health, clean and beautiful."



There are now even skin lightening pills on the market that allow people to "lighten their skin from within" and come away with a "Hollywood" complexion.   

And theres Fair and Flawless  "for those who seek extreme lightening" and they can even make custom creams if you send them your picture.  The company is Von Hoven Cosmetics Inc and they sound like a pretty fearsome  bunch so I am not saying much else.

Whilst writing this and doing some googling I came across a discussion forum on the topic of skin-lightening/whitening on something called the Ask Me Help Desk.  I find it quite depressing that there are women, and they are mostly women out there who are really into this kind of makeover but  I suppose  they are at least discussing the products on the market.  According to one person there are "natural" creams and pills on the market. How can any skin lightening product be called natural? and pills at that.

On one level I have some small degree of
sympathy for women who use these products.  Sympathy for the apparent
dissatisfaction with their bodies that drives them to waste time and money on
useless products. On the other hand their vanity, self hate and inferiority complexes makes them  victims of advertising and consumerism and for this I have no sympathy whatsoever.   

Personally I
suggest we all irrespective of our race or sex, use natural oils of one sort or
the other depending where you live eg palm oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, agan
oil or olive oil. Right now I use unrefined agan oil from the Essouria region
of  Morocco.
or when that runs out olive oil for my hair body and face – lovely!  A friend of mine who has the most perfect skin at 60 plus has used nothing but vaseline all her life.  Whatever we women and men choose we should all learn to love our bodies and grow old with some degree of grace and self-respect!



  1. I remember these products from my childhood. They were advertised in U.S. magazines like Jet, Jive and Ebony.

    But as African-American attitudes changed these products fell out of favor. So much so that they either gone out of business or they have re-focused the product to “skin cleaners”.

    What amazes me is (some)white women are running to the tanning salon for some color.

    The fact that people are paying cash money to be 2x insulted just saddens me. First for buying into the light is better and second for exposing themselves to worthless products just to fit in/survive.

    Yes, I understand why. I just wish the world was a different place.

  2. lightbrightredbone

    Plain and simple. This is a white world and we must fit in. Darker people are generally not seen as attractive as their white or even light-skinned counterparts. It’s not fair but that’s the way of the world. By having a lighter complexion it gains you more respect, acknowledgement and social status. Black men won’t even look at you most of the time if you are not a “redbone” as they call it. My choice to use skin lightening products was to regain the complexion of my childhood that had been loss due to sun exposure over time and other factors. This is fair for me because I once was so light, but there are others who have never been light and who wanted to be. Thatis fine too. I do not critize anyone’s effort to better themselves in their eyes. It’s the same thing with tattoos and piercings. It’s all body modification. WHEN WHITES TAN THEIR SKIN NO ONE SAYS A WORD, IS THAT SAD AS WELL…?????

  3. You have every right to treat your body in the way you wish and make any changes you feel appropriate. And yes we do live in a white supremacist world. However I disagree “that we have to fit in” with white standards of beauty and art or any other standard for that matter. We can choose to fit in but we do not have to fit in. We can choose to accept white supremacy or we can choose to challenge it where ever it raises it’s ugly head.

    I also have to disagree that tatoo’s and other types of body art are similar to skin bleaching. I have tatoo’s the same way that I have rings and earings – for decoration and fun not because I have a dislike of my body and feel that having a tatoo or wearing a ring will make me more acceptable to someone else. As a matter of fact tatoos and body art are very much part of African cultures and are forms of decoration and also have some practical applications such as identification.

    Thanks for your comment and for your honesty.

  4. hue

    it’s really sad that we have to let another human being or group of people determine our destiny. It’s not a white world, it is your world and you take responsivility for it. I agree with the last post. you don’t have to conform to the insecure white individual who are resistant to change and would rather hurt someone in the name of self gratification. The truth is no matter how much you bleach yourself, if you’re not happy within, then it’s all worthless. If the black guys or white people do not like you for who you are, then it is their own problem and they only create more karma for themselves for hating another soul that means them no harm.

    It sad to say that it’s become this obssession in the black conciousness. the media feeds your subconciousness with the same lies they’ve fed the past generation, if you are not smart or sure of your own beingness, then it’s very easy to buy into. I truly wish that young black girls and women would just look above this, especially the dark skinned ones who seem to be so picked on. reach for the skies, accomplish your dreams and let those same fools come crawling to you like they should. it is not a white world. it is your world, your destiny. If it’s meant to be, no one can or will ever stand in your way, be them white, black, purple or green.

  5. angela

    so sad that people feel the need to do this my mother has been doing it for years and to hear that the toxcity can casue disfigurement is shocking. my skin is very sensitive i make my own oil mix all i care about is healthy skin and its horrible that peole of all races are getting sucked into this and destroying their skin at the end of the day you are born in your race you aint ever gonna be another race no matter how light you become so you just have to acceopt it.

  6. Absolutely – someone mentioned the fact that white people tan to make themselves darker, but that is not because they want to look black is it? Either way it ruins your skin causes cancer and is aging.

  7. irisvioet

    peace and submission to truth,
    the person that bleaches the skin with hopes to fit into a standard founded in white supremacy is what made malcolm x say, “you’ve been hoodwinked, led astray and bamboozled” no one of us will have the creators favor thinking that we are inferior and flawed for having darker skin just the same as those who would believe that they are priveledged and superior for having lighter hues. the best of us is the one who is most careful in our duty to the most high and sovereign one. to the girl that says that this is a white world— ‘you’ve been had’ as my man malcom would’ve said. if you got the eyes of the white world and the mind of a white world then yes i guess it is a white world. this mindset is what perpetuates the need and the want as well as the production of a skin cream- a crack pipe- a drug transaction- a drive by shooting- and any other thing that plagues our communities and rhe earth. our consistent adherance and arrogance in resisting change is what brings negativity into existance. it is called supply and demand. with god’s help–change your MIND. your words aren’t fortifying. they sound like rhetoric. we don’t need opinions in 2006. we need actual facts. Educate yourself on facts and don’t lean on your own understanding. too many has already been led astray if you are in fact sincere. if not then please take a seat. this is advice to us all

  8. Ms. B

    The arrogance of white people believing that they’re super human simply because of pale skin. People come in many shades yet people possess a compulsive concern over lightening their skin. They’re the ones that need to change. If this world was the same color everything/one would be extremely boring to look at. We all get hurt, we all bleed. In the end we die and none can take wordly possessions.

  9. Keola

    I have never been able to understand why people bother to bleach their skins or try to look the way they are4 not. What happened to self-pride, be you black, white or green? If this was meant to a black world, we would not have come into existence. Believe that and you live your destiny for the whites who believe in imaginary supremacy. I don’t think it is about black or white, I think it is about self-worth.

  10. Jas

    I think it is very sad. The nmore I read about it the more sorry I feel for these people, who feel that way. I believe its about who has the power in the world. and right now it’s white peole, but at one time it was black people. and guess who was trying there hardest to get darker skin, WHITE PEOPLE!

    People need to learn there history before you were a slave. and believe me when you do, you will turly love the skin your in.

  11. mike

    i whant to be black forever to black to to strong thas what we are we dont need to be white we do need to fucking bleach im so drak and i love my self

  12. ganga

    People dont always bleach their ski because they want to be white, sometimes they have really bad scars that they want to fade. It has nothing to do with self hate

  13. shel

    Well Ive bleached my skin with alot of success. trust me alot of these celebs bleach their skin. I have before and after pics of my results. to view email me at I get it from its a skin whitening spa that alot of celebs go to.

  14. james carlisle

    Its plain to see that white skin is superior to black skin, after all we all started of with black skin.then as we move up the evolutionary, tree we used skin whiting agents,of course it is also true that some of us are moving back wards that why we insist on lying in the sun.There fore what can we gather from this,black people in order to move backward should expose ther bottoms of there feet to sun, palms of hands,white people in order to move forward,must put whiting agents on the bottoms of feet ,and palms of for good or bad hair the truely advanced are like myself BALD?