Bleaching for beauty: cultural perceptions of what’s attractive

Who determines beauty?
Who determines beauty?

I come from a place where many women dye their skin to be lighter. The chemicals in the dyes seem to eat away at their skin, and make them extremely sensitive to sunlight.

These are women who live in a country where the sun is always shining, and even with that knowledge, they still use these products.  I truly believe that it is not a self-hating thing. Think of it this way: why do women wear bras, or put all sorts of chemicals in their hair?

Or more similar: why do some white people tan when they know that it can cause skin cancer? It is simple: they believe they look better tanned. It is not because they hate their breasts, skin, or hair-it is because they want to achieve “perfection” in beauty.

But who defines beauty?

Well, it is safe to say that the definition of beauty varies from culture to culture. Some cultures certainly find lighter skin to be more beautiful, but the majority of this is because of the media.

Skin bleaching does not merely exist in Africa. Africans, Asians, South Americans and women all around the globe are all victims of this trend. Believe it or not, it even happens in the United States. In the Middle East, bleaching products fly off the shelves as many try to look more like Bollywood stars.

You have to admit, it is a bit ironic that we live in a world where lighter people want to be darker, darker people want to be lighter and those in the middle constantly feel out of place. If memory serves me correctly, it’s called the Hypodermic Syringe Model Theory, and it is how many politicians get the masses to do something they would not normally do.

Note: The hypodermic syringe model is a theory of media effect on audience. The term is used to describe the interaction between the media and public belief, offering the concept of people becoming affected by the information ‘injected’ into them through their information medium. For example, television viewers would have their minds injected with sex and violence after watching too many graphically violent shows, and this would affect their views and behavior.


Extracts from an opinion piece by Sofi Seck, published 8 September 2009 (original)

3 Replies to “Bleaching for beauty: cultural perceptions of what’s attractive”

  1. i love your articles; great work. keep it up. i would like to feature portions of your article in my undergraduate project, what do you say? please contact me. tanx

    1. Hi Pamela, feel free to use parts of my articles in your project. Just to clarify, they can be found with the Original articles tag. You can attribute them to Hessa, whiterskin.info or something to that effect. Good luck!

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