The complicated history of lightening creams and its dangerous side effects triggers change

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After analyzing the medical and psychological factors of lightening creams, more countries are taking active measures to ban the products. The measures taken to embrace an ancient perception of beauty are now being regulated. Medical experts are saying that the active ingredients in skin creams (hydroquinone) may cause cancer, diabetes, severe skin conditions and other diseases. This has triggered some countries such as the Ivory Coast and South Africa to ban the creams.

British consultant dermatologist Justine Kluk told BBC the major concern was over unregulated products, which may contain ingredients such as mercury or excessive amounts of steroids causing dangerous side effects.


The history and psychology of Lightening creams is extensive and touches every part of the world from Europe to Africa to Asia, to the US and South America. Lightening creams have long been popular in Hollywood and the US music industry. Executives encouraged celebrities to lighten up or simply refused to cast brown or dark skinned women in Hollywood. This Aryan standard of beauty traces back to centuries of pure whiteness amongst early Europeans who succumbed to the blond hair blue-eyed ideal of beauty. The notion of even having dark hair and non-blue eyes discounted many Europeans from being considered beautiful by these standards. Furthermore, this idealism was passed on to many cultures.

Hitler’s attempt of a pure Aryan nation was motivated by this belief system and triggered his crusade to exterminate all non –pure whites. The history of the “Barbie Doll”, which represents the standard of beauty to many, was also birthed by Hitler ,who factually ordered blow up dolls to be created as a means of pleasure for servicemen and to specifically combat sexual promiscuity and syphilis by German soldiers who were catching diseases during the war. Hitler ordered that the pint sized blow up dolls be fair with blond hair and blue eyes.

The fair Barbie Doll ideal was passed on through generations without many understanding the history behind Barbie and other notions(hence, Snow White’s “mirror mirror on the wall who’s the fairest one of them all”). This ideal dramatically impacted the perception of beauty in media, television and film.

Both women and some men succumb to using lightening creams to fit into the dysfunctional mode of beauty blindly embraced without historical understanding. Ledisi, Lupita N’yongo and Lauryn Hill both actively spoke about unfairness in the industry toward non-fair-skinned women. Congolese television personality, Mushiya Tshikuka, who stars in WE TV’s upcoming series “Cuttin’ It In The ATL”, says she is so excited that she now has a platform that can allow her to teach women to embrace their black beauty without alterations.

“So many women are under pressure to fit a mode that always excluded us and the measures being taken can be dangerous. I hope to teach women to be comfortable in their own skin and love their blackness.”

-Abesi Manyando(@abesipr)

picture: Fashion Royalty doll.