Skin Bleaching Epidemic: Bleaching for Beauty
Introduction to Sociology, 1804
Dr. Max Orezzoli
November 21, 2011
Skin Bleaching is defined as a practice of using chemical substances in attempt to lighten skin tone or provide an even skin complexion by lessening the concentration of melanin. There are several methods in which this can be achieved from the use of topical creams and gel, chemical peels and even skin whitening pills known as Glutathione. This practice is dated as far back as the 1200s rooted in Asia and Japan which is called the Asian Whitening and the Renaissance period between (1400s-1600s), all these people where already of Mongolian and European descent but where still obsesses in getting their skin as pale as white as possible. On the other hand the epidemic among people of darker skin and black people who are dying to be white has said to be rooted to Colonial mentality. Regions such as Africa, the Caribbean and even the United States all having great number of people with the great demand to achieve lighter skin and with this preference somehow equals the ideal vision of beauty. Despite the Enforcement and banning of several bleaching products and its known and its known health hazards it is a growing market for China and several other countries. This issue is can be theoretically broken down by the symbolic integrationist approach which will interpret the importance of self – image. Skin bleaching overall is a dangerous and is killing society’s perception of beauty and commercials and media help make this stereotype that skin color plays a role in economic status and chance of success. First, Skin Bleaching also known as Skin Whitening was said to have its early roots in the Renaissance period of (1400s-1600s). The women were obsessed about getting their skin as pale and as white as possible, “In those times, only very rich, white women pursued porcelain skin” (Hessa, 2011). The vision of the ideal beauty combination was a white face with reddened lips and cheeks, this can be seen through many painting of a woman during the Renaissance period. The most popular skin whitening creams used among the renaissance women was the Venetian Ceruse which was a white lead powder that gave an artificially white complexion to the user. One of the most popular Renaissance women who practiced Skin Whitening with this product was Queen Elizabeth I. Ceruse was easily absorbed through the skin, leading to lead poisoning. The product caused hair loss, a deteriorating mental condition and muscle paralysis and several other health hazards. “Queen Elizabeth I suffered from the effects of lead and mercury poisoning, which eventually lead to her death. In this painting, her hair loss was evident. She had a high receding hairline, covered by a wig” (Hessa, 2011). Skin whitening also has a long history in Asia, stemming back to ancient China and Japan as early as the 1200s. “In Hong Kong two thirds of men prefer fairer skin, while half the local women wanted their men paler. Almost half of Asians aged 25 to 34 years used skin whiteners in a business that some analysts have said could be worth billions of dollars” (Bray, 2002). This obsession of skin bleaching has become an epidemic for ethnic groups with darker skin and has become a social and psychological in some cultures such as Africans, African Americans & the West Indians (Jamaicans, Haitians, and many more). This is epidemic and how black people often show a personal preference for fair skin I think is rooted to the colonial mentality. Reason being, I think it is the result of an internalized oppression. This oppression was driven by perceptions of ethnic and cultural inferiority created from centuries of colonial rule. Whitening products perpetuate an old colonial mentality, even their advertisement and public appeal have gone so far as to be offensive and...
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