Let’s Declare Clear Is The New Fair – New Year New Prelude

Snow White might be a fable from past but Ms. White has created a beauty legend based on complexion which has been giving dark skinned dames a tough run for their beauty through times. Being an aesthetic dermatologist I love studying ideologies of beauty in different cultures and ethnicities. One common thread I have found that holds true globally is: that ideals of beauty are usually applied more strictly to the female gender and for their male counterparts, success more than looks is considered the acceptable yardstick of distinction (now that is one thought provoking discussion which I am afraid I’d have to dismiss with a promised rain check, but please feel free to share your thoughts on this issue underneath in the comment box ;). Staying focused on task at hand – complexion and beauty standards in desi culture coz that’s the touchy feely subject we are going to be delving into today (first encounter, bold discussion, a bit of science, a touch of ethnic issues – I have a good feeling about it – we’d gel well). Focusing at the South East Asian quintessential feminine beauty standards projected at us through the all seeing yet calculatingly prejudiced eyes of print and media – I don’t know it’s only me or you too find the standards of beauty in desi circles perched intriguingly high, everyone is gunning for a complete package – Beauty With Brains – A tall, wide eyed (no lenses pretty please), Fair maiden (fair being the key factor) blessed with luscious long flowing mane (tamed peroxide blonde or red inclined brunette) and a glamazon physique (size-zero yet silicone curvaceous) is what everyone is idealizing. Peremptory high priests of society might allow some compromises in some traits and attributes, but dark complexion is generally considered a deal breaker.

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To fit the stereotype cliché olive complexioned beauties seeking seal of beauty and approval from society are constantly looking for acme skin lightening solutions. Whether you are addicted to using skin-bleaching products or not it’s always wise to know the good bad and ugly of skin whitening elixirs (just in case……). Let’s peek in to the realm of science and try to understand the skin complexion conundrums a little better.


Understanding Skin Color


Skin color is determined by the amount of melanin in the upper layer of skin called epidermis. Melanin is a pigment produced by specialized cells called melanocytes. People with dark skin have more melanin. Every 28 days the epidermis sheds off revealing a new layer replacing the old. How much melanin your skin produces is mainly a matter of your genetic makeup. Sunlight exposure, hormones, skin damage, and exposure to certain chemicals can also affect melanin production.


Due to all the reasons mentioned above changes in skin color often keep happening and later they do resolve themselves too. For instance, a tan usually fades when the amount of direct exposure to sunlight is reduced. But over time, certain discolorations, such as “age” spots or melasma, become more or less permanent.


Hyperpigmentation is a term dermatologists use when the body produces too much melanin, causing skin to become darker than usual. Some skin conditions like melasma; which creates a dark mask-like discoloration that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose, can often be triggered during pregnancy when haywire hormones lead to an overproduction of melanin that causes the “mask of pregnancy” on the face and darkened skin patches on the body e.g. abdomen, chest, arms or back.


One fact that you need to keep in mind while you’re trying to correct you complexion is that every 28 days the upper layer of your skin renews its self and that is the main reason why any skin lightening treatment cannot give you permanent results. You need to constantly use sun protection and skin lightening products if you are carrying a pigmented skin genetic trait.


Skin Lighteners


Skin lighteners are products that contain an active ingredient or a combination of ingredients that can reduce the amount of melanin production in the skin.


The most widely used ingredient in skin lighteners sold around the world used to be hydroquinone. Recently it has been banned in Europe because of its serious side effects over long-term usage. In U.S. the FDA regulates the use of hydroquinone (over-the-counter skin lighteners can contain up to 2% hydroquinone. Dermatologists can write prescription for lighteners that contain up to 4 – 6% hydroquinone). In South East Asia and Middle East its use is still unregulated and different percentages are available for purchase in the pharmacies even without a doctor’s prescription.


Other skin lighteners use drugs such as steroids and/or retinoic acid (vitamin A) as active ingredients. Some products coming from Asia contain mercury a very lethal ingredient, which everyone should steer clear from. Over use of steroids can also leave skin deeply damaged and even permanently scarred with striae especially when used over long periods of time.


Friendlier New Kids On The Block

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Newer and safer skin lightening products use natural ingredients such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C), kojic acid (a compound that comes from a specific type of fungus) and arbutin (a compound found in various plants).

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If your complexion is uneven because of unprotected sun exposure or you suffer from melasma there are so many treatment choices available in the pharmacy. It’s important to understand here that no matter what products you use to clear up your complexion, regular skincare with newer safer skin lighteners anClear Is The New Fair 5d sun protection is the only way you can keep your skin uniform and clear permanently. If you stop maintenance, pigmentation will return.


New Year New Skin Resolution

Is skin color the ultimate standard of beauty? I think not. Skin color is meant only to define your genetic background. It’s the health and quality of your skin that is the ultimate standard of beauty.

In my humble yet expert opinion on beauty – Clear should be the new fair, because skin that is clear, radiant and healthy looks beautiful no matter what shade of pale or dark. Light complexion studded with blemished or marred with dullness, lines and wrinkles is not beautiful by any standard.

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Take Home Loud ‘N Clear Skincare Message

Eat healthy, drink plenty of water, use sunscreen to protect your skin along with your daily skincare regimen and you’d be well on your way towards radiant skin – a quintessential hallmark of beauty. Beautiful is beautiful, even though lookism isn’t about being dark or fair! -Happy holidays!

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Shazia Ali
A certified dermatologist, Skincare guru to the who's who of the Middle East, Dr. Shazia knows the secrets of anti-aging, the insider tips and tricks on how to achieve healthy, beautiful radiant skin and everything in between. Currently the brand Ambasador for University of Westminster, and the head Dermatologist at Tababa Clinics.

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