Thursday 19 August 2021


Bleaching, whitening or lightening. Whatever you call it, making your complexion paler remains popular despite its associated health risks. And according to a new local study, men are just as likely as women to use creams, pills, intravenous treatments or injectables in the quest for a lighter skin tone.

Around one in eight of 400 black, Indian and coloured students at the University of the Western Cape, where the study was conducted, said they used skin lighteners despite being aware of the dangers of some of the products.

Lead researcher Dr Farzana Rahiman, from the medical bioscience department, said the products are used by 10% of men and 12% of women in the study, which is published in the International Journal of Women's Dermatology.

"To my knowledge, this result [about men's use] is one of the first to be reported in SA," Rahiman said.

The prevalence of Indian women using skin lighteners was 15%, followed by black African at 13% and coloured women at 12%.

Around three-quarters of the students said they were motivated by fashion and what they thought was appealing to the opposite sex, and almost half said they were influenced by family and friends to aim for the "yellow bone" look.

The term refers to black people who are light-skinned, particularly women. Johannesburg aesthetic specialist Dr Anushka Reddy said that given the growing base of metrosexual males, it is no wonder men are lightening their skin. "These are men who have an intense interest in looking good, designer clothes and creating their own brand. There is also cultural association with fairer-looking people being more attractive and successful," she said.

"There is a concept called visual adaptation. The more we are exposed to photoshopped images of perfect skin and faces on Instagram, the more our brain is programmed to accept it as normal. Any deviation from this new normal makes people feel inferior and insecure ... so they resort to extreme measures like skin lightening to elevate their self confidence."

Cape Town dermatologist Dr Nomphelo Gantsho said skin lighteners often include harsh ingredients that can lead to systemic and pigmentation complications such as cancers, skin irritation, fungal and bacterial infections and body odour. Psychologist and former black consciousness activist Saths Cooper said South Africans' desire for paler skin is a hangover from the idea that whites are superior. "When people see someone with fairer skin they tend to see that as beauty," he said. Times


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