The controversy over the recent L'Oreal Paris ad for Feria hair color featuring an allegedly whitewashed Beyonce (right) should spur talk about the perils of skin bleaching. (For the record, L'Oreal has firmly denied that they lightened the skin of the fair complected singer/spokesmodel.)
To clarify: I am not implying in this post that Beyonce bleaches her skin at all. But I think this whole debate prompts a discussion of skin lightening, which is so prevalent in Asia and Africa and how harmful it is for women -- on so many levels.
In Jamaica, some dark-skinned women are so anxious to lighten their complexions that they will concoct homemade mixtures of household bleach and chemicals used to straighten hair. A BBC report quoted dermatologist Neil Persadsingh as saying: "If you go to the ghettos, you will see people with their faces white from the application of these bleaching preparations. You see this every day in Jamaica." The situation has gotten so bad that the Jamaican government launched a campaign called "Don't Kill the Skin" last year, aimed at young girls. Even skin lighteners that are sold in Jamaica are not safe and can cause thinned skin, acne and scarring.
Over here, the skin lightening market is a major industry and the main ingredient of most creams and serums -- hydroquinone -- is some scary stuff. The FDA proposed a ban on it in 2006 because it was deemed a cancer causing chemical after being tested on rodents. Right now, you can buy over-the-counter products with 2% hydroquinone and prescription treatments that contain 4% of the chemical.
Clearly, the beauty ideal in this country and elsewhere begs for correction. I found a soap online marketed to women called "Fair & White" -- at what price, physically and psychologically?
UPDATE: The Young, Black & Fabulous has published a picture of the Beyonce ad, as it ran in Essence (left), alongside the Elle ad. The Elle ad looks a lot blander than the Essence ad. The pigmentation is just off. The whole Elle ad looks like it got left out in the sun and faded.
Do you think L'Oreal Paris has some explaining to do?