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Ten Reasons Why Skin Whitening Products Are Shady AF

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Following recent reports that some cosmetic companies are removing the word "whitening" from their skin products, we republish Nadia Craddock's excellent 2017 critique of this market.
Skin whitening is a global phenomenon and according to market research, is one of the fastest growing segments of the global beauty industry, expected to be worth $31.2 billion by 2024. Notably, the practice of skin whitening is most prevalent across the Global South in places where slavery, colonialism, racism and colourism are deeply imbedded in societal values and beliefs. For example, in India, Japan, and Thailand, skin whitening products account for more than 60% of each country’s respective skin care market. According to the World Health Organisation, more than one-quarter (and up to 77%) of women in Japan, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, China, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and India report to regularly using skin whitening products.
Skin whitening products and their associated marketing …

Face-ism in 21st Century Visual Culture needs to be Eliminated

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With the publication of James Partridge's new book, Face It: Facial Disfigurement and My Fight for Face Equality, it seems a good time to revisit this post of his from 2018.

I remember being absolutely staggered at the time. It was the mid-1980s, 15+ years since I’d acquired my imperfect and unique looks. Nightmare on Elm Street had broken box office records and spawned a new genre of horror movies. I was minding my own business walking down a street in London when a wag on a scaffolding rig shouted: “Hi, Freddy, you nasty piece of work” to much applause from his sandwich-eating mates. 

They were much surprised, I think, by my speedy and gently assertive yelled reply (not angry as they probably expected) as I walked on: “Actually, my name’s James”. I held my head up, adopted a resilient mindset (aka ‘a thick skin’) and moved on untouched.

I do have some passing likeness to Freddy Krueger, I suppose: serious facial scarring (after a car fire when I was 18) and a sub-digital left hand.…

“Girls who wear make-up are fake”: #everydaylookism stories tell us you’ll never get it right.

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Putting on your face is something that very many of us do on a daily basis. On average, women will spend “29 minutes putting on make-up to achieve a 'natural look'”, and a third of us “never go out without make-up”. And, over a lifetime women on average spend 136 days (3276 hours) “getting ready for a night out”.Once upon a time respectable women didn’t wear make-up. Only ‘painted ladies’, sex workers, wore make-up; made-up eyes, lips and cheeks were how they advertised their trade. Gradually make-up became OK, so much so that in the Second World War, lipstick was believed to be vital to morale - it was not rationed and was imported across blockades with other ‘necessary’ supplies (Dyhouse, 2011, p.82).Wearing make-up is now routine; required for work, special occasions, or to ‘face the day’. Make-up is such a part of who we are that we can raise money by not wearing it! The 2015 ‘bare faced’ selfie campaign raised £8,000,000 in six days for cancer research. The non-made up fa…

'Strong, thick and shiny’: a story of hair and beauty ideals

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With hair salons closed in many countries under lockdown, reports say there is a boom in "bootleg home-visit haircuts". We revisit this lovely post from Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra in 2018, exploring the significance of hair.


‘Will you please put a comb through your hair? You look like a madwoman’. This admonition from my mother, which echoed through my teen age years with troubling regularity, was delivered in a tone filled with exasperation and incredulity. That an otherwise seemingly reasonable young girl would want to pass as insane, was beyond her understanding.
But I get ahead of myself.
When my respectable, middle-class Bengali parents left India for Europe in the early 70’s, they packed a few essentials otherwise not found across the seven seas. These included some mundane items, such as a terrifying screaming pressure cooker and carefully folded silk saris guarded by moth-balls. But more importantly, they brought with them the norms, standards and traditions from the moth…

“I can’t believe you don’t have a thigh gap": #everydaylookism and why we should be ashamed to body shame.

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Fat shaming is the most prevalent type of body shaming – so common that some argue it’s OK, ‘it’s for your own good’, or suggest that it should make a comeback (like it has gone anywhere). In a visual culture where our bodies are ourselves, a claim I make in Perfect Me, body shaming is people shaming. Body size and shape is something we worry about to the point of obsession. Many of us struggle to be thin, with most of us (84.1% in a study of 9,667 Western women) “wanting to be thinner” according to the YouBeauty survey (Swami, Tran, Stieger, Voracek & The YouBeauty.com Team, 2014, p.705).
So dominant is the ‘thin ideal’ that 59% of girls between 17-21 feel they should lose weight (Girls Attitudes Survey, 2016). And this figure is higher according to some studies, with the Body Image Center, reporting that “89% of girls have dieted by age 17”. That we feel shame of our size is clear, so ashamed that we admit to lying about it; 8% of UK women admit to having “lied to [their] partne…