Skin Bleaching – How and Why These Black Women Bleach Their Skin

Outside her ground-floor apartment in Kingston, hairstylist Jody Cooper sits on the bright blue bench that serves as her makeshift salon. The 22-year-old native Jamaican is flipping through photographs of herself—there she is a few years ago in a studded monokini, with strawberry blonde hair and blue eyeshadow, her skin several shades lighter than it is now.

Human leg, Hand, Sitting, Adaptation, Thigh, Swimwear, Fashion, Temple, Neck, Muscle,

Jody Cooper bleached her skin regularly for nine years—above, she’s pictured at the peak of becoming what’s referred to as a browning; below, Cooper today, with her natural tone.

(Image credit: Marlon James)

Cooper doesn’t remember making a conscious choice to bleach her skin. Growing up, everyone around her was doing it—her school friends, her mom, her aunt. So she did it too. For nine years, she rubbed creams on her face and body, covering up with tights and long sleeves that she believed would make the bleach work better. Her goal was to transform into what Jamaicans call a “browning”: a lighter-skinned black person.

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