Why Are Beauty Companies Selling The Narrative Of Bleaching To Black Women?


Recently, Dove, a personal care brand owned by Unilever came under heat after an advert showing a black woman taking off her shirt to reveal a white woman rubbed people the wrong way. Predictably, people turned to Twitter to express their opinion on the ad which they deemed to be racist. Some defended the advert stating that it was a poorly put together marketing strategy meant to show diversity among women of all colour; their argument based on the fact that the end of the advert included another lady.

Dove eventually posted a tweet apologizing for any offence it had caused. This did not stop an angry mob of people who continued to bash the company’s choice of words on their products. This is not the first time that Dove had been caught in a racist fueled scandal. Their lotion whose logo read ‘White is Purity’ was brought back to the spotlight as people highlighted that they had a history of using offensive adverts.

These adverts are a good example of what companies should stay clear of. Product adverts need to be sensitive to all their audiences and ensure that in no way offend anyone. Their message intended to be passed can easily be misinterpreted or overshadowed by the elements in the advert. An advert that seems to segregate or offend a particular group of people has no right to be aired on any public forum. It is the responsibility of each and every company to post unbiased content for the good of every person.

This whole saga has also shone a light on the idea of companies promoting the use of skin bleaching products. In the last decade, we have seen an influx of women decide to bleach their skin. It has quickly become a general perception that lighter skin is more beautiful; it makes you more attractive. Companies have quickly played into this narrative that a person’s original black skin is not enough. Multi-million dollar companies have been built on the backs of people who have been quick to use bleaching products on their skin in a bid to fit in ‘societal’ idea of beauty.

These companies have gone ahead to develop adverts that seem to favour the lighter skin colour.  Lupita Nyongo in a speech stated ‘Whether we like to admit it or not, the media plays a really big role in how we see ourselves. The media is a mirror of what’s important, what’s relevant, what’s valid.” In a bid to raise profits and expand their businesses, self-care companies have directly or indirectly promoted skin bleaching. They have relied on convincing women that they are incomplete without a certain product. The idea is that if you use these products to change your skin colour, that guy you have always wanted to notice you or that job you want to get will be availed to you by the change of your complexion.

According to a report in The Financial Times, the skin-whitening cream market in India is booming with local companies raking in more than 400 million dollars a year. The number of products containing skin-lightening ingredients continues to flood our shelves and fly off those same shelves just as fast as they got there.

Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, South Africa and Ivory Coast have been at the forefront to ban the import and sale of skin-lightening products especially those with containing mercury and hydroquinone. This is because research shows that long-term effects of mercury include kidney and liver failure. In the long run, these companies play a huge role in deflecting the beauty that comes with darker skin colour. They target women with insecurities who had no choice in what skin colour they were born with all in a bid to make a more money.

Beauty is not skin deep – skin bleaching is dangerous

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The power of the written word fascinates me. It abides- cannot be forgotten. I write in the hopes that I can document the stories of everyone I meet and everything that I see.