Opinion: Embracing your skin’s natural beauty

Carley Hull is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

Carley Hull

If asked what the human body’s largest organ is, the brain or the lungs seem like a reasonable answer, but your skin actually wins the size contest.

Being on the outside of you body, your skin not only protects your body, but it needs protecting itself. Every day our skin endures things we can’t necessarily avoid like UV radiation and pollution, but we also endure damage for cosmetic reasons to change the color of our skin all in the name of beauty.

Women especially have an obsession for altering their skin with cosmetics, lightening creams, and tanning indoors and outdoors. While it is a person’s right to alter his or her appearance, I find it troubling that women across the globe have trouble accepting their pale, tan or dark skin, and embracing their naturally beauty without potentially harmful cosmetic alternatives.

Beauty is subjective. The Merriam-Webster dictionary even defines beauty as “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” What one person or culture finds pleasurable to the senses or mind doesn’t necessarily mean others will agree.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology website, a 2014 study found that 13 percent of American adults–43 percent of that percent being college students–said they used a tanning bed in the past year. Young Americans’ tan obsession is a problem, but there is a bigger issue with racism taking hold of different culture’s definitions of beauty; women altering their skin color is a global issue.

While chatting with a friend from India, she sent me a link to a incredibly disturbing and prejudice commercial for an old Fair and Lovely lightening cream that aired in the Middle East. The ad essentially told women that white was beautiful and that the woman in the commercial couldn’t get her dream job because she was too dark. This made me sick because the message was not only prejudiced toward other’s skin colors, but it is extremely hurtful for women who are pressured to change their bodies for a standard.

I feel like we are often pressured to want what we can’t have, even if it’s harmful to our cultural ideals of beauty. While I was conscious of my pale skin and have often tried to tan or use orange self-tanner to be considered beautiful by American society’s standards of beautiful sun-kissed skin, some women in India strived for the opposite because advertisements, like the Fair and Lovely one, tell women that lighter skin makes them beautiful and successful. The “Dark Is Beautiful” campaign was launched in India to put an end to racism by empowering women to embrace their dark skin. It is a start to an issue that goes beyond Indian culture.

Standardizing beauty from the color of one’s skin is not right and completely unobtainable with the spectrum of skin colors around the globe.

Our natural skin is a mark of our heritage. Based on human evolution theories, we were all once dark-pigmented to protect our bodies from the sun and then slowly evolved to lighter skin colors to allow our skin to soak up more Vitamin D in cloudy climates. If you are of European descent, you are most likely pale because your ancestors lived in cloudy, rainy climates; if you are darker skinned, your ancestors most likely lived in tropical locations or locations close to the equator to protect your skin from the sun.

Every color of the skin spectrum is beautiful. Don’t let advertisements or other people tell you otherwise.