A Whiter Shade of Paler Fashion

Posted by M ws On Tuesday, July 24, 2012 4 comments
Skin whitening seems to be very popular amongst Asians, Middle Easterners, Latin American and Africans as well. According to this site:

Asian, African, Latin American and Middle Eastern cultures cherish fairness stemming back to ancient Japan and China. Whiter skin was a noble status for beauty and social rank.

Japanese Geishas painted their skin white for their graceful profession as entertainers (nope, they’re not prostitutes). The Chinese ground pearls from seashells and swallowed them to lighten their skin.

And during the Achaemenid dynasty in Persia (now Iran), farmers used hydroquinone lightening creams to offset the tanning they get from baking under the sun.

Pale skin fashion reigned among men and women.

In 1901, the Lions of Women used whitening Cuticura Soap and Ointment. Skin whitening soaps, 500 years ago, were marketed as "Antiseptic Soaps" with toxic mercury and hydroquinone in them.

Lemon and dandelion have been used in skin whitening recipes, and toxic arsenic and mercury were rampant in creams as they bleached the skin of innocent users. CLICK HERE for more.

This evening, I came across this very interesting article by Sokari Ekine - a Nigerian social justice activist and blogger. She writes an award winning blog, Black Looks, which she setup over four years ago, writing on a range of topics such as gender issues, human rights, the Niger Delta and Land Rights.

Beyond the Pale by Sokari Ekine

I thought that the practice of skin-whitening / skin bleaching had ended with the 1980s but apparently not. According to Amina Mire writing in Counter Punch a few years ago, '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 - the second largest market after white women. Black women are using the creams less, but when they do use them, they tend to use the cheaper - and therefore more toxic - variety. African women who have chosen to use skin-bleaching creams have very often suffered devastating disfigurement from their toxicity, as well as condemnation by society at large. Before we condemn the many Black and African women who have chosen to use the creams, however, 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 50 years ago, but the colour / hair complex and associated colonial mentality within our communities still exits.

The article provides a brief history and background to the skin-bleaching industry, which was originally targeted at both Black women and southern white women in the US as early as 1889. The marketing ran:

'A 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.'

4 comments to A Whiter Shade of Paler Fashion

  1. says:

    walla I dunno about you but i fancy Eucerin's hyaluron day cream. It has spf15 and uv protection. Have to save heaps for it though, an occasional treat.


  1. says:

    masterwordsmith TQ!! Eucerin is quite expensive for retirees like me so I have to settle of Oil of Ulay :-).

    Take care, Walla, and have a great week ahead!


  1. says:

    cin2tan wat happens to 'oil of ulan' !!??

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Cin2tan, they changed it to 'Oil of Ulay'..

    Read about it here:


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