South African actress, television host and artist Khanyi Mbau has made headlines once again after posting a risque bikini selfie on Instagram. It turns out the world wasn’t ready and people were fixated on her seemingly ghostly pale skin.
The 34 years star is famous for many things, but mostly it is her everchanging complexion that sends the public into mass hysteria time and time again.
As if she is made from a tough skin, she remains unbothered as she’s trolled, lashed at and negatively turned into memes.
Her case – bizarre to many people – has at numerous times been used as a tool to chastise black and brown people who may feel the need to enhance their skin tone for various reasons. Now, that’s not an up-to-the-human-mark to have, and it’s never too late to get your facts right if judging and trolling such folks happens to be on your agenda.
With the help of Bolden, I will break down the differences between skin whitening, bleaching, and lightening as well as brightening.
Skin Lightening & Whitening
The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but bleaching and whitening are one and the same. Lightening and whitening are solely based on how much melanin production is reduced. Skin lightening is a gradual method which is less obvious than bleaching, a more aggressive method.
Both methods use tyrosinase inhibitors (molecules which decrease the activity of the enzyme which controls the production of melanin) but, whitening uses stronger inhibitors such as mercury to completely get rid of melanin.
Skin brightening is a completely different concept from the aforementioned two skin terminology. See, the skin produces new cells to replace older cells as frequently as every 27 days, while the rest of the body takes about seven to ten to regenerate. The dead skin cells remain on the surface of the skin which makes it appear dull.
Whenceforth by exfoliating, one removes the dead cells which lead to revitalised skin which looks radiant and brighter. Ingredients such as hydroxy acids, vitamins A, E, and C help the skin naturally shed dead skin cells.
Anywho, don’t get lost in the elaborateness of the nomenclature…
The fact of the matter is Khanyi Mbau is not the first, nor will she be the last black person to bleach her skin. Research shows that ancients civilisations such as the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks used honey and olive oil to lighten their complexions.
What’s more, colonialism embedded deep-rooted self-hatred by enforcing European beauty standards, creating a desire for lighter skin in most People of Color communities. Lighter skin meant wealth as rich women didn’t work outside and overtime after mulattos (first generation of offspring with one white parent and one black parent) came about to be, light-skinned slaves were separated from dark-skinned slaves.
Now Colourism is Problematic!
In the communities of People of Color, colourism is a real issue. The darker your skin is, the harder it is to find good opportunities, especially in the entertainment industry.
When asked about colorism in entertainment, Khanyi said that “the entertainment industry is about looks” and that unfortunately, if you are darker-skinned, you have to work harder.
Men of Colour Are Not Innocent Too…
Even when it comes to relationships, real talk, many men don’t find dark-skinned women attractive. While they argue that it’s about preference, Black and Brown men love caucasian, Latina women, and you know, the lighter the better. Forget about the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.
In Nigeria, being fair gave you access to “hot bachelors” and a lifestyle that only light-skinned women could enjoy, so many women bleached their skin, damaging it irreparably. The cheap, illegal products that they used gave them a sore, pinkish complexion rather than the desirable caramel colour that most of them yearned for. Behold the double trouble!
Some women also vie for lighter skin men because they don’t want dark children. As if the mess couldn’t get messier, dark-skinned men and light-skinned men are often pitted against one another, i.e. light-skinned men are softer than dark-skinned men.
The point I’m making is…
There’s a whole lot of misconstrued information about radical skin enhancement in the black and brown communities. Many of us believe that bleaching is another way of conforming to white ideals.
Embracing our melanited skin and natural hair happens to be à la mode right now, it’s a time to alive. However, not everything is so linear, especially the reasons why people lighten or bleach their skin, for example, treating hyperpigmentation, vitiligo, and other various skin conditions.
All I’m saying is let’s tone it down on the judgment, worse things are happening.
Written by Theresa Ntswaki.