Skin Bleaching in the Caribbean and Beyond

All of the pictures of bleaching products on shelves were taken in Beauty Supply Stores along Flatbush Avenue.

Skin Bleaching is the practice of using chemicals to lighten the shade of one’s skin by suppressing the production of melanin.

Most skin-lighteners work by pealing away layers of the skin until the dermis, the most sensitive layer of the skin, is revealed. Brightening products are illegal to sell and buy in the Caribbean but they continue to be bought and sold throughout the diaspora with little consequence or fanfare.

Along Flatbush Avenue, skin-lightening products are available in almost every beauty supply store. They are even sold in several booths at the Flatbush Caton Market- an indoor establishment designed to resemble a traditional Caribbean market place. The abundance of toning products along Flatbush proves that bleaching is an integral part of the Caribbean beauty in New York. Though members of the Caribbean diaspora are no longer in their native lands, their definition of beauty is still heavily influenced by the need for light skin and other forms of Eurocentric beauty.

The practice is generally defended as an expression of style but is generally perceived as an indication of self-hatred.

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