Former Cameroonian model, Irene Major, is speaking up about her skin-lightening regime, which currently runs her about $4,000 a year. Her expenses are mainly due to her dependency on the products that help her achieve and maintain her light complexion.
Major, who started lightening her skin seven years ago, insists that it has nothing to do with being ashamed of her race. She sees as it as a cosmetic procedure that helps her to feel “prettier.” “When my skin is lighter, I just feel prettier.” “Its a taboo subject, and people get judgmental about it, but that’s how I feel.”
Now the wife of a Canadian oil tycoon, Major grew up realizing the differences in skin tones, and how those differences were generally perceived. “There are many different types of African skin – from dark charcoal to a lighter version – and you grow up knowing that the lighter ladies are the prettier ones.” “It’s just a fact.”
Her younger sister Elsa, provided more commentary around why African girls are typically more prone to damaging their skin in order to sport a much lighter hue, “Being lighter shows you belong to a different place on the social ladder. All the rich, successful black African men marry either a white or a very light-skinned girl because they too grew up thinking that the lighter is the most pretty. It doesn’t matter how dark a man is, of course – the pressure is all on women.”
Overall both women feel validated in their choices to alter their skin color and texture – regardless of the destructive consequences and potential health issues that ensue from consistent use of products that contain dangerous agents, including mercury, bleach and even acid.
Skin lightening has become a multi-billion dollar global industry and African women are at the top of the list of aggressive consumers.