"Mirror, Mirror On the Wall", I do not want to be the fairest of them all; I want my skin to be more even, not more light. When I was little, perhaps at one of my first sleepovers, I wandered into my friend's bathroom and got into her mother's make-up. I put white powder over my face and came out, confident that I now looked just like my peers. A mixture of confusion and discomfort led her mother to phone my mom to pick me up. I don't remember the actual conversation, but I remember it has one of my most embarrassing moments to happen before I reached puberty. I wish I knew then, the common struggle that many women of color face with the controversy surrounding skin-lightening.
Michael Jackson, Beyonce, and Lil Kim have all been accused of bleaching their skin. I'm not pointing any fingers, but there is a certain uneasiness that happens when a celebrity begins to slowly get lighter as their wallets get fatter. There is also no denying that media outlets have been accused of lightening the skin color of brown-skinned celebrities without their consent — I'll leave the judgement to someone who's perfect, as it was only a few years ago that I began feeling a puff of pride when someone would admire my new summer tan.
Let's face, the celebrities aren't to blame, it's the thousand plus years of equating light skin to beauty that's the real culprit here.
Here's the thing: It's easier than you think to accidentally lighten your skin when trying to correct skin conditions, especially if you are trying to cover a large area of dark spots. In order to diminish signs of aging, hyperpigmentation, sun damage, and acne scars, the dark spots must lighten if not heal. I've quite a few friends that have dropped a few hundred dollars on at-home skin bleaching treatments, only for me to see them several months later and not recognize them. In the beginning, their face looked amazing and I too longed to spend 300+ dollars on this chemical. Fortunately, I couldn't afford it and by the time I could, I read the label and saw some scary results.
According to the Daily Mail, many over-the-counter and prescription skin lighteners contain steroids, mercury, and hydroquinone which can lead to permanent pigmentation, skin cancer, and mercury poisoning — way more serious stuff than a few dark spots.
My personal beef with the notion of skin bleaching cream is not the idea that fair skin is more beautiful, or the offensive cost — it's the fact that many of them, not all, are merely masking the problem by bleaching the skin and not treating the skin condition. What ends up happening, is that you have to continue the treatment and thus begins the cycle.
I've got news for all skin colors: You do not need to look very far or spent very much to safely tone your skin, lighten dark spots, or treat hyperpigmentation. Most of it can be found in your local grocery or maybe even your hot neighbor's garden — let's face it, you've been meaning to introduce yourself anyway.
Personally, I loathe acne spots, I find them more shameful than a pimple, as if they scream "Look at me! I've been under SO MUCH stress lately!" Not exactly the first thing I want people to see. I'm really not trying to spend a lot of dough on a toner that could accidentally change the color of my skin therefore, I've tested plenty of natural remedies that I can make from home. Check out a few super effective ways to get an even skin tone without using dangerous chemicals.
Lemon Juice and Ginger
I use lemon juice as my skin toner twice a day, I simply apply lemon juice with a cotton ball on a freshly washed face and after it dries, I apply my moisturizer. However, for serious skin toning, use about a teaspoon fresh ground ginger and a teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Apply as a mask, massaging into skin to drink in the vitamin C and natural brightening qualities of lemon juice. The ginger is a natural skin toner with antioxidants and anti-aging properties. Choose a carrier oil to dilute the treatment and put in some additional moisture for extra smooth skin.
Aloe Vera and Cucumber Pulp
Well, the best part of this natural skin brightener is that it's also going to help you out of a sunburn fiasco. Aloe repairs damaged skin and restores the skin's pH level, which is killer when it comes to brightening sun damaged skin or other skin conditions such as keloids and acne scars. Cucumbers have a milder bleaching ability, but also provide some extra hydration and nutrients that will heal the scarring and damaged skin. Add a lactic acid such as yogurt or raw coconut yogurt to further brighten skin tone and some extra anti-aging qualities. Extract the juice straight from the aloe plant leaf and then mash or blend your cucumber. Combine into a small bowl and apply to skin and neck daily for best results.
Orange Peel and Raw Honey
Raw honey fights bacteria, and restores pH levels, but it's the gluconic acid, the reason honey is so goopy, that has a crazy brightening effect on dull skin. The skin of an orange is packed with vitamin C, calcium, B vitamins which are key to anti-aging properties, and zinc which helps protect your skin from UV rays. This is a super healthy alternative to skin bleaching creams which are typically stripping your skin of its natural moisture and pigment.
If you're looking for a natural alternative for skin lightening and aren't looking to make your own healthy skin snack, be sure to check your labels and look out for key ingredients in beauty products to keep an eye out for!
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