Below are a few terms you should know before you begin the read:
Melanin: a pigment that gives human skin its colour. People with darker skin have more melanin than people with lighter skin (Medicinenet, 2016).
Colourism: discrimination towards people based on their skin colour (Thefreedictionary, 2014).
White Perfect is a popular whitening skin care line by L’Oréal Paris. I will begin this analysis by deconstructing the name of the product in the advertisement: WHITE PERFECT TOTAL 10. The name of the cream itself conveys that white skin equates to perfect skin. As if one gains totality and achieves perfection by whitening their skin, the number 10 is used to illustrate completion and success. This ad is quite explicit in conveying the product’s function to whiten skin intensely. From the white beam of light in the background illuminating the advertisement to the white cream bottle itself, whiteness is in every way glorified.
As a cosmetics brand that uses whitening agents in their products, L’Oréal’s motto is ‘Because you’re worth it’. I cannot help but fathom the obscurity of their slogan, what exactly are they saying I am worth? I’m worth having whiter skin? I’m a black woman deserving of a product that changes my natural skin pigment? It may sound like I am jumping the gun, but this is exactly what this product conveys to any woman of colour by simply sitting on a shelf at Walmart. How ironic is it that within the brand name L’Oréal, one can read the word ‘real’. Yet, a product of theirs encourages altering people’s appearance to an unnatural physical version of themselves, a whiter version. This advertisement beautifully advocates a standard that has been continuously praised by media and society for generations past – white beauty. As a French brand, these whitening products made by Caucasians themselves are distributed to ethnic countries all over the world. These products serve as a constant reminder to people of colour that whiter skin is the pinnacle of beauty.
To reveal some of the colourist messages hidden within this advertisement, I made a few modifications here and there. My culture jamming reveals how media praises white beauty standards and encourages colourism. A famous Indian actress by the name of Sonam Kapoor is one of the leading models for the WHITE PERFECT skincare line. As a very popular Indian celebrity, young Indian girls strive to look like her the instant they recognize her fame and watch how men drool over her fair skin. Growing up as a minority, I quickly realized at a young age that the lighter you are, the more beautiful you are perceived to be. Unfortunately, whitening creams are passed down from Indian mother to Indian daughter and African grandmother to African grandchild. This beauty standard has been normalized to the extent that some don’t see anything wrong with wanting to whiten their skin. They argue that it is only a personal preference to be lighter, but I would like to question the origin of this so-called preference of theirs. It’s difficult for us as individuals to have preferences solely based on personal opinion when media tells us everyday what is beautiful and what is not.
It has come to the point where African friends of mine stay indoors, horrified of being sun-kissed not acknowledging that they need more vitamin D than others. Pakistani mothers force milk down their children’s throats hoping it will lighten their skin. Additionally, some black men turn away from their dark skinned female counter-parts and marry within the Caucasian race to dilute the melanin down their bloodline. Using a whitening cream is just a classier way of achieving the same purpose. Colourism in the black community rose from racism and slavery. The darker slaves were out working in the fields, while the lighter slaves stayed indoors and received special treatment (Samuels, 2010). This discrimination is so imbedded into today’s society and we have lost our sanity and ethical standpoint regarding this issue. Skin whitening products are continually sold and advertised across the world. They encourage a cycle of white beauty standards and segregation within ethnic communities. Products like WHITE PERFECT continue to advocate that beauty only exists in shades of white.
Za, Pim. Whitening Day Cream SPF30 PA . 30 July 2014, beauty-on-sale.blogspot.jp/2014/07/loreal-paris-white-perfect-total-10.html. Accessed 15 Feb. 2018.
Samuels, A. (2010, November 1). The Ugly Roots of the Light Skin/Dark Skin Divide. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from http://www.newsweek.com/ugly-roots-light-skindark-skin-divide-213518