Home | News    Wednesday 2 August 2006

In Sudan, pale is beautiful but price is high

separation
increase
decrease
separation
separation

Aug 2, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — At the crowded Beauty Queen parlour in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, beautician Selma Awa says she just cannot understand why so many of her clients want to get their skin lightened.

"One hundred percent of women who come here have it done," she said. "People think it’s prettier to look white. In my opinion, dark is prettier. I don’t know who they want to look like."

In many countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia lighter-coloured skin is considered prettier and paler women are believed to be wealthier, more educated and more desirable.

This attitude has led to a boom in the use of skin-lightening products in Sudan, a vast country torn by war where skin colour also has political connotations.

Rasha Moussa, a maid, pulls some skin-whitening cream from her handbag.

"I use it on my face to make my face shine. The Sudanese see the light colour as better than dark. I think it’s a complex that we have," she said.

"People judge you here by your colour ... If they see me and someone else with lighter skin wearing the same clothes, they would say she is living a comfortable life and I’m a poor woman," she added.

Millions of women throughout Africa use creams and soaps containing chemicals, like hydroquinone, to lighten the colour of their skin. But the creams can cause long-term damage.

Dermatologists say prolonged use of hydroquinone and mercury-based products, also found in some creams, destroys the skin’s protective outer layer. Eventually the skin starts to burn, itch or blister, becomes extremely sensitive to sunlight and then turns even blacker than before.

Prolonged use can damage the nerves or even lead to kidney failure or skin cancer and so prove fatal.

"It’s a very bad problem here. It sometimes kills the patient ... It’s bad, bad news," said a doctor at a Khartoum hospital. He said the number of women coming to the dermatology department with problems caused by skin-whitening treatments had grown to at least one in four of all dermatology patients.

MODERN STYLE?

In Khartoum, skin-whitening creams are displayed prominently in stores and on roadside adverts. Products advertised on Arab television channels promise the creams will also make a woman more confident and glamorous.

In one advert, a previously unremarkable female television presenter delivers a stunning report after using whitening cream. Her handsome male colleague, who has previously ignored her, says: "You were great. What are you doing at four?"

In another, a singer leaves the stage with stage fright but returns after lightening her skin and performs wonderfully.

At the Modern Style bridal store, an array of skin-whitening creams adorn the front desk. Next door, a photography studio displays wedding portraits of women with very pale skin.

Modern Style’s Egyptian owner Samira Magar tied the growing preference for white wedding dresses, which are not traditional in Sudan, to the desire for pale skin.

"More Sudanese are getting white wedding dresses, so they want to look like Egyptians and Europeans," she said.

"I think it’s an inferiority complex. They think that if they’re white in colour, they are more beautiful," she added.

Magar said some women had resorted to mercury and harsh prescription creams not meant for cosmetic use, leaving their faces disfigured on their wedding day.

SINISTER TONE

Natural methods of skin whitening have been used for centuries, Magar said, but in Sudan the use of chemicals began in the 1980s and has thrived since.

The doctor at the Khartoum hospital, who declined to be named, said the creams now used can cause irritation and infection, blotching, eczema, and that most contain steroids.

The doctor said that rather than ask why women use the creams, men should be asked why they prefer pale skin.

"Here, all men want to sit with or marry a woman with light skin. If any man wants to marry, he says the first choice is for a woman with light skin ... Why is this?"

While a tan can be seen as something of a status symbol in the West, darker skin marks out women in Africa, the Middle East and Asia as poorer people who have no choice but to toil under the hot sun.

In Sudan, Africa’s biggest country, over two decades of civil war between lighter-skinned northerners and darker southerners has given skin tone more sinister connotations, and the meaning of the various shades is nuanced.

Northerners, who are mainly Muslims and claim Arab lineage, have traditionally held power. A north-south coalition government now shares power after a peace deal last year.

During civil strife, skin tone often meant the difference between life and death. Southerners, traditionally Christian or animist, complain of prejudice against them in everyday life, and some northerners privately claim superiority over their darker and non-Arab countrymen.

(Reuters)

Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

Comment on this article


 
 

The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.


Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis


What about the leaked Sudanese regime documents? 2014-10-01 07:05:27 By Salah Shuaib September 30, 2014 - Colluding with the regime, some regional and international forces have been, during the last two decades, producing and adapting negotiation solutions of (...)

Beyond the thinking hillock of Sudan’s security apparatus 2014-10-01 06:55:03 By Mahmoud A. Suleiman September 30, 2014 - The following article is an attempt to analyse of what the Chiefs of Military, Intelligence and Security Devices of the National Congress Party (NCP) (...)

Genesis of Lakes State crisis (Part 1) 2014-10-01 06:49:36 By Peter Gai Manyuon September 30, 2014 - Lakes State Comprises of eight Counties and most of them are for Dinka tribes but different sub-clans perceptions are too different with each others in (...)


MORE








Latest Press Releases


Sudan Democracy First Group condemns wave of arbitrary arrests in Sudan 2014-09-25 05:17:35 Sudan Democracy First Group 25 September 2014 - In a desperate attempt to prevent a series of events commemorating the victims of the September 2013 protests, Sudan’s notorious National (...)

HRW calls on UN rights body to press Sudan to investigate murder of peaceful protesters 2014-09-24 21:24:09 Human Rights Watch One Year On, No Justice for Protester Deaths (Geneva, September 23, 2014) – The United Nations Human Rights Council should call on Sudan to account immediately for the death (...)

Hundreds walk for peace in South Sudan 2014-09-23 08:30:16 National Platform for Peace and Reconciliation (NPPR) PRESS RELEASE Juba, 21 September 2014 - Hundreds of people took to the streets of the South Sudan capital Jubato ‘Walk for Peace’and demand (...)


MORE

Copyright © 2003-2014 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.