Navigating the dark and dangerous world of skin lightening

My name is Rose Assiimwe and I am the founder and CEO of Alvaa Da’vanti. My friends and colleagues all suggested that for our company’s first blog I should tell my story. And make no mistake, I do have a story. Some would say it is an inspiring story, a story of crippling adversity overcome, of perseverance, determination and, I have to say, a lot of courage. It is a story that you would perhaps hear on the Oprah Winfrey show. But I am not going to tell that story. I will tell it later or let someone else tell it on my behalf if they think I am worthy. In this blog I want to talk about skin colour.

Tanning and whitening two extremes with the same motivation

Have you ever noted that where there is a beach and some sun you will find people, usually Caucasians, stretched out, semi-naked exposing their skin to the harsh and unforgiving rays of the sun. In fact, sun-tanning is perhaps the motor behind a gazillion dollar tourist industry. People with largely white skins flock to where they can get some sun and sea and stay until their skin turns brown. They return home, and everyone compliments them on their wonderful tan whilst secretly feeling jealous.

On the other hand, you will often find the locals in these popular tourist destinations, from the southern Mediterranean clines, right though exotic South east Asia and even South America, will go to great lengths to protect themselves from the sun. Why? Because the last thing they want is for their skin to go any darker than it is. In fact, in many cultures, particularly in Asia, light coloured skin is treasured. It is seen as beautiful and associated with higher social status. This is not surprising I guess. In countries with a high rural agrarian-based population a lot of people work the fields under the sun and so a dark complexion is associated with being a peasant and are stigmatised as being ignorant and uneducated. On the other hand, a lighter, brighter complexion is associated with city dwellers, wealth and power.

While many PC people from the western cultures may frown on this perspective regarding skin colour, are they themselves guilty of the same underlying motivations where it comes to tanning. Let’s break it down. Why is having a rich tan so popular amongst certain demographics. Perhaps, northern Europeans and white Caucasians associate a deep rich tan with a life of leisure spent doing fun stuff under the sun in the world’s exotic playgrounds. And of course, a life of leisure implies wealth and power, does it not? We arrive at the same motivation as that of the desire to have a lighter skin in other cultures. The sad thing is though, that this obsession with tanning has led to a world-wide epidemic of life threatening skin cancer.

More people treasure a light complexion

The simple fact is, considering the populations of Africa, west and central Asian, India, China, Korea and south east Asia, many more people on this planet, whatever the underlying reason, prefer a lighter skin complexion.  They all want to feel beautiful and, like it or lump it, many associate beauty with a fair skin.

Upon realising this, I was touched by this mass of people who are desperately looking for a safe effective way of lightening their complexion, so they can face the world with a sense of confidence that their beauty is expressed in a way that works for them.

Skin whitening; a dark and dangerous world.

Of course, with this many people looking for ways to lighten their skin it seems inevitable that exploitation and scams arose. Billions of dollars are invested in promoting skin whitening products to women, and increasingly, men right across the world from Africa to south east Asia to south America. And, as one would expect 10s of billions more dollars are spent on all sorts of whitening products, often in countries and by people who can least afford them.

To bleach or to lighten

There are generally two types of skin lightening products on the market, those that bleach the skin and those that inhibit the skins ability to produce pigments and thereby slowly lighten the skin. Bleaching creams often contain harsh chemicals that discolour the skin through a bleaching action and can include nasties like steroids, which ‘thin the skin so much it gives the appearance of lightening’, and mercury, which is potentially carcinogenic. But one of the most dangerous ingredients contained in these creams is the lightening chemical hydroquinone, which can lead to permanent ugly damage to the skin that is ironically often dark in colour.

While many lightening creams don’t necessarily contain the brutal range of chemicals that the bleaching agents do many are simply ineffective, while others are just as dangerous as the bleaching creams and can at their worst leave users with lasting, sometimes irreparable damage to their skin.

A passionate search for an ethical product

This whole issue sparked my interest and soon turned into a passion. I went on a mission to find a safe, ethical skin lightening formulation that actually works and at the same time nourishes and nurtures the skin. Primarily, I was determined to find a combination of natural plant-based extracts and compounds that have been developed and researched with and efficacy proven by well conducted clinical trials.

The result of this research culminated in our range of skin lightening creams that are complimented by products that will, at the same time, nourish and nurture the skin. These products are a unique formulation based on my own research. I would not hesitate to use these treatments myself or give them to my family and friends as presents. I am proud off my company’s product range because it has been a labour of love and one that I know will benefit thousands of people who want to feel confident in their beauty.