Bleach Please, All’s Fair in Love and Beauty

I told myself that I want to buffer beauty reviews with other posts, be they musings or rants.
The widespread nature of skin bleaching products, despite the laws meant to curb the market’s enthusiasm, can only point to one thing: demand and desperation. According to Susan Nielson: “South Africa has the toughest laws on skin lighteners of any country in the world, having banned its most common active ingredient – hydroquinine – as well as the words “bleach”, “lighten” or “whiten” in cosmetics advertisements” (Nielson, 2014). Check out the article here:

I was ready to come in – morality guns blazing – but like most things in life, this isn’t just black and white (excuse the pun).
I came across a certain skincare brand from India recently and my interest was instantly piqued. This was due to them using natural ingredients such as spices – known for their anti-inflammatory properties – in their products. While exploring the shelf dedicated to this brand in my local pharmacy, I spotted a skin bleaching product amongst the lot. Natural indeed…

Even though I do not see myself buying a product that would slowly eat away at my skin colour, would me buying anything else from this brand make me complicit in their supposed war on melanin? It’s a slippery slope, especially when you consider that brands market their products differently in different countries. What says ‘clears pigmentation’ in a South African advert, may claim to ‘whiten and brighten’ elsewhere. Business is business, right? If they don’t manufacture this, their competitor will. So supply and demand: pure economics right?

It is old news that media images are saturated with a certain kind of ‘look’.

A screenshot from the American film, ‘Dear White People’

However, this was not the case in a South Indian – Tamil to be specific – film that I came across called Maryan. Maryan was refreshing in that both leads, Dhanush and Parvathy Menon, were dark of complexion. In the Indian films I had seen – mostly Bollywood (North Indian), mostly light-skinned women were cast as the hero’s love interest. By saturating the industry with only one kind of beauty, and portraying them as desirable, it intimates that looking that way is the yardstick for both beauty and success.

A still from the Tamil film, Maryan. (Source:

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Many beauty brands and industries are embracing an approach that reaches out to the diversity of their target market, rather than choosing one demographic and trying to coax everyone into looking and becoming that that group.
As mentioned in my very first blog post, make-up is about wanting. The agency available to bleach consumers should not be underestimated. No one can be forced to part with their money to buy something that can apparently “contain banned substances known to cause extreme skin damage – hydroquinine, mercury and most recently, high levels of corticosteroid, which can cause the skin to thin and tear easily…” (Nielson, 2014)
Factors such as Colorism or discrimination against people who fall on the darker end of the spectrum is also significant when looking at the rationale behind skin bleaching.

Habiba Da Silva (left), a British Youtuber and blogger, has frequently spoken about colorism within the Arab and Muslim community. (Source:

In closing, I feel that blogs and social media are great platforms to facilitate inclusivity and reconfigure the old standards. The genetics behind skin and eye colour are extremely complex. They are also inherent. We need to get to a point where our identity is a non-negotiable and we don’t allow other people to dictate the ways in which it is constituted or re-constituted.
In my week on WordPress so far, I’ve encountered the blogs of people who represent many different kinds of looks and that own it!

Thank you for reading 🙂 Your thoughts would be appreciated .


7 thoughts on “Bleach Please, All’s Fair in Love and Beauty

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