26 May 2015

Anger over ‘skin whitening’ products on sale at London event

News Correspondent

A leading exhibition promoting Afro-hair and beauty has again drawn criticism after granting access to an exhibitor actively selling “bleaching scrub soap” to whiten black skin.

Above: a model at Afro-Hair and Beauty Live

Afro-Hair and Beauty Live claims to draw thousands of black women a year to an exhibition for stylists, fashion designers and manufacturers of African and African-Caribbean health and beauty products.

A range of “Skin Light Plus” products that included bleaching scrub soap and whitening body lotion promising to “lighten skin” were being sold by an Italy-based company calling itself “Mama Africa Cosmetics”.

The group’s products are stocked in a range of popular African-Caribbean hair shops including the chain store, Paks.

The NHS has warned that some “non-prescription creams that claim to bleach or lighten your skin can be harmful”, though Rosa Olive, who said she is the manufacturer and owner of Mama Africa Cosmetics, told Channel 4 News that this product is not harmful.

“This is not a chemical product. It’s a natural product so if you use it’s not a problem for your skin”.

However, some whitening creams may have a different kind of harmful effect – creating a negative message that to be beautiful means to have white or light coloured skin.

AHB Live must accept responsibility and apologise to those who felt offended by this product line. Afro Hair and Beauty Live

When Channel 4 News asked about the potential “negative message” created by skin-whitening products, Ms Olive said: “I think our products are tested and we do not have any problems – Italy makes only successful products.”

However, exhibition attendee Hanna Huffi, 27. said: “I think it’s very wrong to be at this kind of event to have skin lightening cream at a black beauty event.”

At present there has been a notable resurgence of in the natural hair and health movement which encourages women of African heritage against use of harmful chemicals in pursuit of a Eurocentric standard of beauty that privileges white skin over dark skin.

Influential blogger Elle Jourdainne, 28, co-founder of Natural Hair Daily (pictured above, third from the left) said: “Its all about being comfortable in your own skin and products can’t do that for you. You need to find that within yourself.”

In this debate on Channel 4 News skin bleaching was highlighted as having negative impact on self esteem of black women:

Most attendees Channel 4 News spoke to were either unimpressed or disappointed skin whitening products were being sold with plenty of women preferring natural looks and products.

Channel 4 News was told that since the exhibition’s conception, 34 years ago, it has attracted 300,000 attendees.

Afro-Hair and Beauty Live, said: “Afro Hair and Beauty Live embraces the beauty of women of colour, with that being said we must say that we do not support the message of black women whitening their skin complexion.

“However we must look at the reality of the situation and note that these products have other uses, such as getting rid of blemishes and spots that regular blemishing products may not be able to get rid of.

“We will also note that Mama Africa approached the AHB organisation as a cosmetics company, and it was not until they had arrived at the show that we saw the branding used on their products. “

AHB Live must accept responsibility and apologise to those who felt offended by this product line. However we must look at the positive in every situation. These products are not illegal and can be used for blemishes and spots, as I previously mentioned.”