National campaign launched against skin bleaching
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She said this time they were using a different strategy to reach the public and were sponsored by the private sector.
“We have now prepared educational pamphlets on the dangers of skin bleaching which will be distributed at all SA skin clinics,” said Dlova, who is also the head of the dermatology department at UKZN.
She said their initial campaign had successfully communicated the dangers of this practice and that fewer people were now showing an interest in bleaching their skin.
“Nowadays, when people consult they are looking for safe products to treat disorders of hyperpigmentation and always emphasise that they don’t want to change their skin tone but only want to treat marks. Some mention that they have stopped buying products based on what is recommended by friends but would rather see a dermatologist.”
However, Dlova said it was still easy to purchase harmful skin lightening creams over the counter and that to curb this would need “reinforcement from the government”.
She attributed the interest in bleaching to psychosocial factors, media and celebrity influences as well as low self-esteem. The issue was more prevalent in Indian and African communities, and 90% of the users reported that they were unaware of the harmful effects of these products.
Dlova said that while another march was not necessarily on the cards this year, they might consider an online educational campaign. She told the Daily News that the use of intravenously administered glutathione to lighten the skin had been banned in the Phillipines, where the trend had started.
“Glutathione is used for patients with cancer to protect the central nervous system. I am against the use of this compound for skin lightening.”
uMhlanga dermatologist Ishaan Ramkisson said many clinics advertised intravenous skin lightening and that it was essential to check what the product consisted of and whether it was approved by the Medicines Control Council.
“But the encouragement to those who were interested in this should be to get more comfortable in their own skin.”
According to Ramkisson, social media created the biggest problem because often people with a huge online following would post pictures of themselves and their bleached skin, but he could see that the pictures had been edited.
He said over the past two years there had been a surge in the number of teenagers - usually of university age - who started bleaching their skin. However, the “vast majority” of those who lightened their skin were between 25 and 45 and then also in the mid-50s age group and older. Very few men - and then usually only those in their twenties - were interested in skin lightening. “I don’t do the IV market because it is contrary to my personal beliefs,” said Ramkisson.
Recently a post on the Facebook page, “Grey Street Casbah Tips and Remedies”, went viral after one woman asked what people were using on their faces to improve their skin tone.
In an interview with Drum magazine, TV personality Khanyi Mbau insisted that she had nothing against dark skin but that a lighter skin made her look better.
“I am not shy of being black, I am very black but I am the liberated and free black. The one who, if I want to do something I do it, regardless of what people say,” she told the magazine.
Journalist and author Vanessa Tedder said recently on Facebook what most dark-skinned women did not understand was that they were found to be beautiful precisely because of their colour.
Logie Naidoo, the former deputy mayor and Speaker of eThekwini Municipality, told the Daily News that people often poked fun at his dark complexion but he just laughed it off.
“I think it is time for a revival of the ‘black is beautiful’ campaign,” he said.
According to Naidoo, the entertainment industry - including Hollywood and Bollywood - was largely to blame for the interest in skin whitening because they always portrayed people with fairer skin.
“There is nothing wrong with dark pigmentation,” said Naidoo, who did not support the use of creams or any procedures for skin whitening but admits that in the Indian and African communities, many dark-skinned individuals were subject to some form of prejudice. He urged people not to “judge a book by its cover because it might be one of the best reads you ever have”.
Durban actress and socialite Sorisha Naidoo, a former Miss India South Africa beauty queen, told Drum magazine that nasty remarks about her dark skin tone made her turn to bleaching.
“Looking back now, I regret doing it. I think I was more beautiful before. I loved who I was. It was an irrational decision.” She said once she started the process she went too far and developed complications. “I was becoming too white - my skin was almost paper-thin and I became very paranoid about my looks.”
Naidoo is apparently trying to go back to her roots and reverse the skin-lightening process. She declined to be interviewed on the issue.