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eauty trends have their ebb and flow. There is no raging debate on our preferences

eauty trends have their ebb and flow. There is no raging debate on our preferences or the choices we make – be it the shape of our eyebrows, shade of our lipstick shades, nail art or hair lengths. Talk skin colour on the other hand, and ammunition at the ready, both sides are ready to fire. Skin whitening is a sensitive issue that often sparks strong opinions. There are psychologi- cal, social and political undertones attributed to who people crave a lighter complexion: Is it fairytale hangover from reading of Snow White as a child? Maybe an echo of racial discrimina- tion? Or that most fashion icons we see are fair skinned beauties? A marketing ploy that feeds on insecurities, perhaps? Women tend to stand divided, believing strongly against or for the quest of fairer skin, but the pursuit of the latter seems to be gaining the upper hand as the beauty industry increas- ingly churns out more products that relate to skin whitening. More than just the simple act of achieving fair skin, the desire to be fairer and whiter is driven by social and racial implications as we continue to be mesmerised by visuals of fair women in the media. I am sure we have all seen TV adver- tisements (in Asia, Africa and the Arab world) where an olive-skinned girl was duly ignored by the boy of her dreams. Several weeks later, when she reappeared with fairer skin after us- ing the advertised skin whitening lotion, her boy crush then becomes smitten by her new skin tone. What kind of message exactly are we sending to the young women out there? The tone and message is repeatedly used in so many similar products, we have either become immune to how offensive it is. Not just in ad- vertisements, but every day, in various media channels, we are subversively being fed the idea that only Snow White will be successful and happy in life. Ever notice how the antagonists in TV shows and movies are usually of a darker colour? Ever notice how out of 12 covers of any given magazine, less than three are adorned by women of darker skin tones?

less than three are adorned by women of darker skin tones? 30 / JANUARY 2012 by

30 / JANUARY 2012

by dEbrIna alIyaH

mirror

mirror

on

the

wall,

WHo’S THe fAireST of uS ALL?

Lighten the diversity, please!

The big hoo-hah in the entertainment and fash- ion industry to be more inclusive and diverse remains, just that-a hoo-hah. Somalian super- model Iman is celebrated as a beautiful African beauty, yet, magazines airbrush her skin colour to a lighter tone to be worthy of their covers. While thousands of other aspiring young Af- rican girls who look to Iman as a source of in- spiration, are bound to question their own skin colour. Perhaps it would be easier for them to emulate Iman if they had a lighter skin tone and thus spark the insatiable demand for skin-whit- ening products and treatment regardless of the side effects that may occur. Two of the biggest pop stars today are beauti-

may occur. Two of the biggest pop stars today are beauti- ful coloured women like Beyonce

ful coloured women like Beyonce and Rihanna. The duo are also strong advocates of embracing their own diverse ethnicity; especially Rihanna who comes from Barbados. But exactly how ef- fective is their voice in empowering women if photos of these stars become increasingly light- ened over time? In India, which is a huge market for skin- whitening products, powerhouse actresses in- cluding former Miss World Aishwariya Rai and Kareena Kapoor are also much celebrated for their fairer complexion (more than their acting prowess) which symbolises beauty and success. As this message trickles down to the billion-plus population, all that is left is the constant quest to be the fairest of them all, because only women who are fair will achieve happiness in life.

The Arab fix The notion that white skin represents a supe- rior race and ultimate

The Arab fix

The notion that white skin represents a supe- rior race and ultimate beauty is very much pres- ent in this region as large majority of women continue to seek out skin whitening treatments. Not only do they use over-the-counter skin- whitening products that are offered by almost all beauty brands, they go to great lengths seek- ing both invasive and non-invasive surgeries to lighten their skin. “About 90 percent of my patients who have come in seeking other treatments will eventual- ly enquire about skin-whitening treatments and most of them do it for vanity and beauty reasons rather than for medical conditions like black spots or birth marks,” dermatologist Dr Sanaa

like black spots or birth marks,” dermatologist Dr Sanaa Mustapha from the Dr Hassan Dermatology &

Mustapha from the Dr Hassan Dermatology & Venereology Centre explains. While most of us dream of a Prince Charming that will accept us for all our flaws, skin colour included, it seems that this is no longer a legit dream. “Most of the women here view white skin as the absolute symbol of beauty and the men pre- fer women with whiter skin too. It is especially important to women who are going to be mar- ried because they want fairer complexion for their wedding celebrations,” she says.

What’s that on your skin?

The treatments offered as non-invasive pro- cedures include the usage of topical cream and chemical peels. The main active function

feature

glam

and chemical peels. The main active function feature glam in most non-invasive procedures is to reduce
and chemical peels. The main active function feature glam in most non-invasive procedures is to reduce

in most non-invasive procedures is to reduce and prevent the amount of melanin produc- tion which is the substance responsible for our natural skin colour. The latest non-invasive procedure that is gaining popularity is the non- ablitave laser resurfacing which targets the mi- croscopic zones of the epidermis and dermis to result in fairer complexion. Controversial invasive procedures that have made headlines for causing adverse side effects include dermabrasion and ablitave laser treat- ment. Dermabrasion involves the abrasion of the upper layers of the skin akin to using sandpaper to wood and the procedure requires local anaes- thetic. The ablitave laser treatment is based on the same concept of upper layer skin removal by directing brief intense burst of laser energy on the skin. The energy heats water within the sur- face layers of the skin and turns both water and tissue to vapour. Both procedures will result in the skin being sore and raw after the treatment and requires long periods of time to heal with delicate care. “Non-invasive procedures are what we would usually recommend to patients seeking skin lightening treatments for cosmetic reasons. Invasive procedures are only used to treat pa- tients with medical skin conditions. The ad- verse effects of invasive procedures are just not justified for cosmetic purposes considering that it may result in hyper pigmentation, scarring, white head formation, erythema, infection and post inflammatory hyper pigmentation. These complications are especially common in dark skin individuals,” Dr Sanaa explains.

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pigmentation. These complications are especially common in dark skin individuals,” Dr Sanaa explains. JANUARY 2012 /

glam

glam feature Risky beauty Despite the risks of irreversible skin damage and hyper pigmentation, women continue

feature

glam feature Risky beauty Despite the risks of irreversible skin damage and hyper pigmentation, women continue

Risky beauty

Despite the risks of irreversible skin damage and hyper pigmentation, women continue to flock to dermatologists demanding for these procedures hoping for instant gratification and not thinking about the long-term effects on their skin. 48-year-old Nurliza Shareen who underwent

a

dermabrasion treatment says she had to stay

at

home for close to two weeks because her skin

was sore and she just could not bear to meet people during the period with her red face. When she finally left home, she had to wear a visor cap for close to a month to protect her face from the sun. However, not all women who seek skin light- ening treatments are looking for the porcelain perfect fairness but are just trying to improve skin conditions including black spots, uneven skin tones and birth marks. These can usu- ally be remedied with over-the-counter beauty creams which are available at beauty spas and pharmacies. Although this method may not pro- duce immediate results, the long-term usage of these products will allow the skin to slowly ab- sorb and adapt to the active ingredients in the cream formulas. “Women in particular suffer from pigmenta- tion and spots on their face due to changes in hormones at different phases of their lives espe-

changes in hormones at different phases of their lives espe- 32 / JANUARY 2012 cially during

32 / JANUARY 2012

cially during menstruation and pregnancy. For simple cases like these, women prefer to use creams rather than undergo surgeries be-

cause it is safer, fuss-free, affordable and can be done in the comfort of their own homes,” says Carla Coetzee, Manager of Dados Beauty and Spa. The beauty centre uses the Nu Skin skin- brightening range which helps minimise dark spot and prevents new discolouration.

A skin whitening cream fan Danieli Louzen,

says that the reason she uses these products

is to help maintain a lighter skin tone which makes it easier for her to experiment with dif- ferent makeup colours.

“I have a slightly tanned complexion and I rea-

lised that only bright palette of make-up colours like blue or pink would standout on my skin. I started using skin-whitening skin care products and creams to help get a fairer and clearer com- plexion so that I can use other makeup colours including brown and grey which can help create a sexy and sultry look.” While these may seem remarkably safer than surgical procedures, a lot of consumers may not realise the long-term effects of certain skin lightening creams that contain chemicals in- cluding hydroquinone that act to prevent the natural production of melanin in the skin. Mela- nin acts as a natural protection against the sun

and without it, we become more susceptible to skin cancer. The US Food and Drug Administra- tion has even issued a warning that over-the- counter skin bleaching drug products are not generally recognised as safe and effective. Rather than resorting to surgeries or using skin lightening creams, Dr Sanaa believes that preventive measure is the most important step to preserving a healthy skin colour. “Try to avoid sun exposure as much as pos- sible especially with the harsh weather in this region. Unless it is absolutely necessary, try not to go under the sun between 9am to 3pm in Qa- tar’s weather. Even woman who wears the niqab must apply sunscreen on their face because the fabric does not serve as sufficient protection from the sun! Always apply the sunscreen at least 15 minutes before you head out to allow the skin to absorb the lotion and remember to reapply the sunscreen every few hours!” she ad- vises. But ultimately, the most important concern at hand is not the dangerous and painful methods that women go through to achieve fairness but the complex issues of self acceptance towards their own natural skin colour. If we all truly embraced diversity and inclusiveness, perhaps then we will no longer have to endure shallow advertising that perpetuates a fairy tale.