Until we start telling our dark-skinned children they’re beautiful and perfect as they are – and believing it – dangerous skin bleaching is here to stay.
It starts when children are young: the moment a child is born, relatives start comparing siblings’ skin colour. It starts in our own families– but people don’t want to talk about it openly.
The definition of beauty has to include skintone from a very young age, and this can’t happen if parents themselves aren’t fully convinced of this fact.
Melanin is one of the foundational defence mechanisms of our whole body; it’s there for a reason. It allows us to survive radiation. If we didn’t have melanin, we wouldn’t exist.
Every time you remove (or greatly disturb) melanin, you scream for hyper-pigmentation later,” says Najma Khan, skin specialist from DMK South Africa.
“If you have skin problems, don’t risk irreversible skin damage and other conditions by using an unregulated over-the-counter product that is not endorsed or recommended by any dermatologist. And if you have problems with your skintone, get around people and spaces that can help you evolve into full comfort with the skin you were born with”, she adds.
Skin-lightening products contain a chemical called hydroquinone. In the US, dermatologists can prescribe creams or lotions containing about 4% hydroquinone for patients with skin conditions, and some products approved for over-the-counter use contain 1.5% to 2% hydroquinone. These creams are topical, and partially block a chemical reaction in our skin that produces melanin.
DMK South Africa, a paramedical skin care brand launched a campaign #dontmesswithmyskin mid this year in a bid to educate young women on the dangers of skin bleaching.
The campaign also tackles issues to do with acne, pigmentation, and scarring and uneven skin tone in order to address skin issues.
The effects of skin bleaching are well documented , and can result in severe and irreparable damage to the skin in the short and long term, among other things.
The discussions about self-acceptance and self-love seem to be happening only in small, isolated spaces, hence there needs to be open discussion about these issues.