Why are men and women in the country risking their health for whiter skin?
Dateline reporter Tania Rashid goes in search of people who believe “the lighter the better” when it comes to the perception of success and beauty in South Africa. This has led to the use of dangerous skin bleaching creams and a generation of young people who are ignoring health warnings about these creams.
Jeff, a 19-year-old student with dreams of becoming a music artist says, “Girls like rappers that are attractive… and by attractive I mean light-skinned with a beard.”
Mathahle, a beauty activist taking a stand against the light-skinned look, recently styled a ‘Zulu inspired’ magazine photoshoot to help normalise dark-skinned beauty.
Skin bleaching creams are reportedly smuggled into South Africa, in a country where it’s illegal to sell any cream that claims to bleach or lighten skin.
As part of SBS’s ‘Face Up To Racism week’, a week of programs exploring racism and prejudice, this Tuesday Tania Rashid investigates why this rainbow nation generation is so desperate to change the colour of their skin.
Despite the South African government passing laws to protect people from creams containing potentially dangerous chemicals, many are still available and even endorsed by celebrities.
The creams allegedly contain toxic substances and a recent study suggested one in three women in the country buy them making it a big business fuelling demand for the products.
On meeting one of the country’s biggest female rappers who openly promotes skin-lightening creams, Rashid talks to Mshoza, a woman who disappeared from the public eye and reappeared much ‘lighter’ believing it’ll make her more successful.
“How crazy is it that we live in a world where your life can be easier just based on how you look, just based on the colour of your skin,” Mathahle says.
Watch the full report – South Africa’s Skin Bleaching Scandal on Dateline, Tuesday 28 February at 9.30pm on SBS. The episode will be available after broadcast via SBS On Demand.