I bet the title got your attention but rest assured that this article will try to convince you not to ever bleach or whiten your skin again! And it will succeed and make you think.
Have you ever heard of whitening creams?
If you are a Pakistani or Indian woman with a pulse, then you have had to face some sort of whitening treatment or cream in your life. as salons sell “whitening facials” and cosmetic companies ladle concoction made with “whitening ingredients’ and labeled as “beauty reams” “fairness creams” “whitening cream” and the horror of all horrors, “bleach cream”. matrimonial ads ask for “fair” bride for a “fair” groom and darker complexions are often looked over for proposals, promotions, or even attention. Parlour wali auntie who is more of your well-wisher than your own flesh and blood advises you: “Baji skin kitni dark ho gayee hai apki koi whitening facial ley lain” or a guy is advised by his friends to use whitening creams to marry well.
Isn’t the issue of fairness and colorism over?
While many believe that the fairness issue is over in Pakistan, the countless salons offering whitening, many prominent media personalities getting IV infusions of whitening injections, and the prevalence and normalization of bleach creams tells a different story.
As a child I have faced colorism spending my childhood in Lahore and I still remember all the names that the kids used to call me(including my own sister). It was traumatic at a very young age to face the possibility that the skin color that I was born with(which was pretty dark when I was a kid), could mark me for a doomed future of no prospects of marriage, and being unlovable in general. And I immediately picked up a fairness cream from my local store which eventually ruined my skin. After just two years of use of various fairness creams I was left with severe skin sensitivity and a cycle of acne and inflamed skin. As I grew up and moved out of Pakistan, I realized all the damage that I had done to my skin in the name of “skincare” and how dangerous those creams are.
In a community where potential matches are made on a “Shade card” marking the fairest women as “marriage material”, there is a fairness cream for every class from house help to the sophisticates who all have it ingrained in her psyche that being fair makes them more loveable and attractive. what is life, after all, if not a perpetual quest to get married.
Whitening skin creams are the number 1 best selling skincare product in Pakistan
When I first launch Sabbskin Canada in Pakistan, our market research indicated that by far the best-selling product in the skincare market is a whitening cream, and I was immediately advised to launch a cream which promises whitening to the public. there is, after all, always room for another whitening cream. I launched research into how he whitening creams have changed from my childhood and was disappointed to find that most of them had harmful ingredients in them which were not listed on the ingredients list and most users were using them unaware of he long term drastic health issues that they might face. (Instead We decided to instead launch a results based retinol cream which was fully encapsulated and contained niacinamide but that’s a story for another day).
What difference does it make to use a whitening cream?
In 2019 the Pakistan ministry of climate change collected 59 samples of local and international cosmetic items where 56 contained hazardous mercury share in the composition of makeup goods. None of these companies mentioned mercury in their ingredients list. According to Minamata Convention allowed limit for mercury in cosmetic products is not more than 1 part per million (ppm) (0.0001 percent) was allowed which was valid for whitening creams as well. But 56 of the 59 creams contained a lot more than that. in fact, New York times reported that in USA City health officials have warned people not to use certain skin-lightening creams from Pakistan and a pair of soaps from Spain — saying they contained as much as 14,000 times the level of toxic mercury allowed in cosmetics.
Mercury and other harmful ingredients which are added to these creams but never listed on the ingredients can cause severe health issues and nerve damage and many other illnesses.
Most people understand that whitening creams are bad for their health and skin but yet, they continue to buy these creams day in and day out, what possible reason could there be for it?
Why are we so obsessed with White skin?
There are three main reasons imho why colorism exists in many countries including India and Pakistan and even Philippines and Bangladesh:
- cultural beliefs,
- socio-economic disparities, and
- colonial influence.
Culturally, lighter skin tones are seen as more desirable, and this has been perpetuated through traditional art, literature, and media. Socio-economically, lighter skin tones are often associated with higher status, education, and wealth, creating a further divide between those who are considered to be of higher and lower social classes.
Digha nikaya provides a discussion between Gotama Buddha and a Hindu Brahmin named Sonadanda who was very learned. Gotama Buddha asks, “By how many qualities do Brahmins recognize another Brahmin? How would one declare truthfully and without falling into falsehood, “I am a Brahmin? Sonadanda initially lists five qualities as, “he is of pure descent on both the mother’s and the father’s side, he is well versed in mantras, he is of fair color handsome and pleasing, he is virtuous learned and wise, and he is the first or second to hold the sacrificial ladle
It is recorded even in the time of Gotama Buddha; fair color was considered a trait of the privileged Brahmin class. This is further evidenced by the fact that Sonadanda lists it as one of the five qualities necessary to declare oneself to be a Brahmin. Additionally, the fifth quality listed is that of being the first or second to hold the sacrificial ladle – another privilege of the Brahmin class. While the concept of privilege based on physical attributes may not be accepted today, this discussion in the Digha Nikaya shows that it was a part of the society of Gotama Buddha’s time.
Lastly, the legacy of colonialism has played a major role in perpetuating colorism in India, as lighter skin tones were seen as a sign of beauty and superiority during the British Raj. There is a suspiciously close link between all the regions that the British empire ruled and the obsession with fairness and fairness creams in majority of these countries including Philippines where whitening injections and Glutathione drips are common and many whitening creams are imported even from Pakistan to many of these regions as they may control substances that manufacturers from other countries may shy away from adding.
The practice of binukot among the Philippine people of Panay Bukidnon is an interesting and unique cultural tradition. Not only does it predate Spanish arrival in the Philippines, but it is also a practice that has been carried on for centuries. The idea of shielding young women from the sun in order to attract higher suitors is a fascinating concept that speaks to the importance of beauty, status, and marriage in the culture.
If not whitening creams what should I use then?
You must be asking if all hope is lost and if you cannot safely bring back your original skin tone which was burn with exposure to sunlight? You absolutely can. Just use safe ingredients including a high strength Vitamin C serum like Sabbskin Hello Glow serum which has thousands of rave reviews for restoring glow and beauty to even the dullest of complexions safely.
Also, it is important to apply a sunscreen instead of a whitening cream as prevention is better than cure in skincare. A famous Dermatologist once said that the world’s best anti-aging cream is sunscreen. He couldn’t be more right.
You might not Realize that You can make a difference
I would implore you to spread awareness about the harmful effects of fairness and whitening creams and encourage open dialogues amongst our youth on the pressure to look a certain way. It’s 2023 and we still have whitening injections being bought despite the level of information and public awareness. It is critical that the government fund research in order to control the use of mercury, yet it is not overly pessimistic to believe that little will change in terms of attitudes. This is clear from the fact that the ministry of climate change, not the ministry of health, consumer protection, or women’s rights organisations, is taking legal action against these corporations. In addition, while steroids are utilized in topical treatments and are similarly damaging to skin as mercury, their usage has not been criticized despite the fact that they are poisonous chemicals. highlighting that women’s rights and health are secondary issues that are generally ignored rather being focused on.
Also do remember to check out my other articles on Mangobaaz to learn some awesome skincare tips.
Mercury found in fairness creams
Health officials warn of mercury levels in skin-lightening creams https://nypost.com/2018/04/06/health-officials-warn-of-mercury-levels-in-skin-lightening-creams/