Complexities of Complexions

‘Black is beautiful’ remains of the most popular pro-black sayings while bleaching creams continue to fly off the shelves making billions for the cosmetic industry. This means that black women (and some men) either only pay lip service to this saying in the name of political correctness or there are social factors deciding what the society perceives to be beautiful that cannot be regulated or corrected by a pro-black strap-line. There is also the option that black is not beautiful, but considering that beauty is relative to a set of aesthetics with cultural approval such a statement cannot possibly be true.


The first reason that blacks pay lip service to endorse black beauty in public but privately aspire to be lighter is inevitably related to the second that social conditions influence our perception of beauty as regards to skin tone. Contrary to popular belief that the human condition is unique to the time we live in, it has actually always been the same. What is often termed ‘beautiful’ is really just what society finds attractive and hence desirable.

Taking a look at Caucasians and the perception of beauty as regards to white skin it is easy to see they face exactly the same struggle as blacks but in a different scenario. In the Victorian era it was considered beautiful to have pale skin. The closer your skin was to porcelain white, the more beautiful you were. In those times makeup (foundation powder) was designed to whiten the face and blusher used to produce a contrasting effect. Today white skinned people invest in fake tanning lotions and sun beds to look as brown as possible. If there was a cream to increase melanin production to give them a permanent tan, the market would just be as big as or even bigger than bleaching cream. In the Victorian era white skin was desirable because it represented wealth and affluence as fairness was a sign that a person did not work in fields. Today a tanned skin represents the same thing because holidaying to a warm country where one can get a tan sign of affluence.

Relating this to black skin it becomes more apparent why bleaching is prominent in our society. In a world of global media dominated by white or light skinned black women as sex symbols and the epitome of beauty it easy to see where the idea that lighter is better originates from. This idea filters through the society affecting both men and women. Light skin black women boast of more approaches from males which encourages others to bleach in other to stand a fighting chance in competition for males (vice versa applies in the case of bleaching men).

So what is the solution to this mentality that we are trapped in? The honest answer is that there is no quick fix to a problem so deeply rooted in our mind that it exists for many of us on a subconscious level. It will take a total reorientation of what we see as beautiful before any sort of metal revolution on this can occur. A quick scroll through Google images will show anyone interested how many black celebrities have bleached their skin to make themselves more marketable. Until we have more women like Lupita Nyogn’o that confidently represent black beauty, we will continue to be conditioned that lighter is better. Only the conscious few able to see past social conditioning to appreciate a larger picture will understand that there is beauty in every shade even if we are made not to see it.

william ifeanyi moore
Written by William Moore – @willifmoore

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  1. I Absoluty love this blog society has messed up our perception of what beautiful is. I had beautiful brown skin girl tell me once I wished I was light skinned and had long hair I would have more friends… Its sad that even children have been drawn into the idea of beautiful is we all are beautiful in our on way.

  2. There is beauty in every shade, be it black, white, red, or brown. That’s the reason for the saying “beauty is in the eyes of beholder.

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