Good Old Bleach
As a teenager, you probably associate bleach with cleaning and chores. These days, bleach seems to be popular in a variety of ways. If you look around in the halls of Jarvis, you’re bound to find several students who have bleached their hair. Bleaching hair is common and relatively harmless. But there is another place some people use bleach: on the face.
In our modern society, it seems that a large number of Blacks and people from other ethnic groups are using bleaching creams to lighten their complexion. Some use these creams mainly to bleach unwanted dark hair on their face, but others use it to change their skin tone. s not exclude high school students. Ten girls at Jarvis that I talked to, ranging from ages fifteen to seventeen, said they use bleaching creams. One would probably ask why? The answer is because of self-image. Why do young girls starve themselves to lose weight? It has been shown that they are trying to fit into the ideal image that this society portrays. Similarly, skin bleaching is a response to societal pressures and media portrayal of models.
A popular cosmetic product that is often used to lighten the skin is hydroquinone. It is a white or colourless crystalline compound. After washing the face, the cream is applied with fingertips, rubbing the cream into the face and neck.
These creams appear the same as an ordinary cream, except that they contain harmful chemicals. Bleaching creams containing hydroquinone provide a lighter complexion over time, and are found to be relatively safe with ordinary use; that is, if it’s used in a very low concentration. That’s why, these types of creams are being sold in stores across Canada at a limited concentration of 2% bleach. Concentration levels between 2% to 4% are found to be safe. With this regulation in mind, those whouse bleaching creams have a certain degree of protection.
However, throughout history it has been shown many times that when humans interfere with nature, they tend to get in trouble. Although it appears to be very progressive to have the ability to change the skin colour with which we were born, there are many negative affects due to de-pigmenting agents such as hyproquinone.
These products don’t literally bleach the melanin in the skin; they merely disrupt its production, which in turn leads to the gradual loss of skin pigments. Thus, no new melanin is formed and existing melanin is destroyed. In addition, because of the chemical agents contained in bleaching creams, the top layer of the skin, known as the epidermis, is destroyed as well. With thetop layer gone, the dermis is exposed. Without its protective layer the dermis is exposed to the external environment. It cannot compensate for the absence of the top layer, nor can it handle daily climate conditions. Finally, since the protective layer is gone, harmful organisms such as bacteria can enter the body through the skin. Therefore, there is a higher risk of irritations and possibly skin cancer.
The ’safe’ 2% concentration rate does not have the capacity to actually lighten the skin effectively. “I have to use more than my fingertip to get results,” says a junior Jarvis student. So far it works for her, but she and other users are misinformed, because there is another problem: the lightening results are not permanent.
Just like dying hair, the colour eventually fades when new hair grows. The cream does not change the skin pigment genetically. When the treatment stops, the body tries to make up the skin pigment it has lost. Therefore, shortly after discontinued use, they would have more melanin in their skin pigment than before. When a person stops using the bleaching cream that was used daily, he or she will have a darker skin tone than before using the cream at all.
Not only do these creams not give permanent results, they also caus emany serious health problems such as dizziness and nausea. Many people, however, are unaware of these problems. Several students, when asked, assumed the bleaching products were for the hair rather than the face. When informed of the face-bleaching problems the students were surprised to learn such a thing existed.
Nature gave us complexions to suit our environment. In areas with a colder climate, people tend to have less melanin in their skin than those who live in warmer climates. Although science has opened many doors in life, it has also created various complex problems in our society. People are bombarded with ads that show how the ideal person should appear. Not only do teen models appear extremely thin but also those with darker tones literally do not exist in magazines. Furthermore, even in magazines targeted at black people such as Essence and Ebony, the ideal black person is portrayed with fair skin.
It is truly ironic what people are willing to do in order to fit into this image of the “ideal person”.