Your skin is beautiful just the way it is

 

Beauty standards can be dangerous. The ideals set by society push many beyond touch-ups, to the point of altering their bodies in ways that carry severe risks. Prof Ncoza Dlova is campaigning to overthrow one particularly damaging perception: the idea that dark skin is less attractive than light skin. Pigment-lightening products have been the cause of increasing dermatological catastrophes over the last five years.

Dlova holds a PhD in Dermatology from UKZN and has been working with skin for over 18 years. Throughout her career she has witnessed first-hand the damage that can be caused by attempts to lighten skin-tone. The side-effects range from stretch marks to cancer. As Head of UKZN’s Department of Dermatology she leads research into the skin-lightening process known as bleaching. Along with documenting the dangers of this practice, particularly when carried out using illegal chemical products, her team has investigated the motivation behind it. A third of the people surveyed admit that they just want to look more attractive.

Shockingly, 90 percent of this group had no idea they were risking serious bodily harm. The fact that people are willing to undergo a procedure that they know far too little about for the sake of meeting an abstract societal standard is cause enough to reconsider our position. Dlova and her team are making a start by creating awareness about the issue, but lasting change will take a collective effort. The world and its norms are made up of individuals, and changing the way we think about beauty requires each of us to go through some internal debate. We should all feel comfortable in our own skin.