After using skin lightening products for over 20 years, Marie is now proud of her natural black beauty. She has chosen to trust us to regain her original ebony complexion and to fight her blemishes and spots.
More than that, she managed to take courage to tell you her story: family environment prone to skin depigmentation, discriminating remarks about her black skin, but also the difficult decision to stop.
Marie shares her story without taboos!
At what age did you start using skin lightening products?
I started using skin lightening products when I was 13/14 years old. I remember coming home from a summer camp with a complexion that my mother thought was "too tan". Her goal was for me to get an even skin tone with a lightening milk and soap. I was not aware of what I was doing. At that time, I can say that I was depigmenting my skin involuntarily. Indeed, at that age, we don't choose what we apply to our bodies, we follow our parents' advice.
We imagine you've heard discriminating remarks about your dark skin or frizzy hair at school.
Do you think this influenced your decision to use skin lightening products?
My social environment was very difficult because there were very few black students in each of my classes. So I unfortunately received a lot of discriminating remarks about my nappy hair and black skin color at school. They were very subtle but still very hurtful for a child to hear.
I got these questions:
- Why are you so black?
- Do you smell like chocolate?
- Don't touch me, you'll make me dirty!
- You have big lips like a baboon!
- Your hair is like a horse's mane. They called me the lioness.
Being young, in the process of building a life, looking for oneself and getting up every morning to receive these types of comments about one's appearance is very fragile! Believe me, this daily racial discrimination can really upset a child's life.
Afterwards, I noticed that after I applied my first skin lightening treatments, I began to receive compliments about my discolored complexion. I came to believe that a fair complexion was the ultimate standard of beauty... I was also very attracted to the world of beauty and fashion. When I was flipping through magazines, my reference was the Caucasian woman with light eyes and long hair. I wanted to look like her.
My conclusion was this: if being black means being ugly, then why not continue to depigment my skin? I would say that it was as a result of this that I chose to voluntarily apply skin lightening products in order to lighten my skin.
Were your family and friends aware that you were depigmenting your skin?
I grew up in a family environment where my mother and some of her friends lightened their skin once they arrived in France. I think that out of ignorance, they did not consider the danger and the impact that this could have in trying to influence their children as well.
My sisters did not want to depigment their skin. Thanks to the internet, they had easier access to information on the harmful effects of skin lightening, which made them very confused about this practice.
As for me, I think that my close circle of friends and family knew that I depigmented my skin but I never talked about it openly. It is important to know that voluntary depigmentation is still a taboo subject in our community. Then, for a long time, I refused to accept that I was depigmenting my skin. Was it a denial? I would say yes. I had convinced myself that it was my natural skin tone! So, as soon as someone asked me if I used skin lightening products, I would deny it completely.
You told us that you had problems with spots and pimples when you were a teenager.
Why did you choose to apply lightening products rather than dermocosmetics?
During my puberty, I had a strong outbreak of acne that left me with many black spots on my face. Lightening products were always presented to me as the only possible alternative to my hyperpigmentation spots and acne pimples.
Furthermore, the idea of going to a dermatologist was banned in my family. It was always explained to me that they only treat white skin. Therefore, they had no specific knowledge about black skin but also about the good or bad actives we can use. Today, I know that some dermatologists are specialists in pigmented skin.
At the time, I preferred to trust the various lightening brands rather than go to the pharmacy to try dermocosmetics designed for Caucasian skin.
We know from experience that stopping skin lightening is very difficult mentally, what do you think?
Sincerely, making the choice to stop depigmenting your skin is a decision that must come from the heart. It should not be influenced by a third party. That's how it will become definitive and that we will not relapse... However, I think that being well accompanied throughout the process of stopping is an important thing. The most difficult thing is the psychological aspect, you have to have a strong mind!
For my part, I tried several times to stop depigmenting my skin because I knew very well that these lightening products were destroying my skin. However, I didn't know that each time I stopped, my skin would go through a transition phase. My complexion would darken and hyperpigmentation spots would appear.
I would get so many thoughts like:
- What's going on?
- Why did you go dark like that?
- Is there something wrong with you?
- It's not pretty!
- You were better off before!
As soon as I heard this, I would immediately look for a new brightening line.
This continued throughout my pregnancy. This time, I was getting remarks about my pregnancy mask. So, to try to erase these brown spots, I tried new lightening products: in vain! Then, after giving birth, I wanted to continue applying these products to supposedly "clean" my skin.
Yes, lightening products had become like a drug! You get into a certain addictive spiral where it becomes impossible to do without them, impossible to stop, for fear of becoming "ugly" again. Unfortunately, this lasted almost 20 years !
What was the trigger for you to stop lightening your skin for good?
For context: My husband didn't grow up in an environment where the women around him depigmented their skin. He knew me with this light skin tone. I always hid from him that I was using skin lightening products.
One day, while we were talking, my husband stopped talking to look at my face, neck and hands. He asked me, "What are all these spots? What's wrong with your hands?"
From his look, I knew I had to stop. The difference is that this time I realized that I had to get help and psychological support. After telling him everything, he supported me in this process 200%. I then looked at myself in the mirror and said STOP! This can't go on like this! It was becoming urgent.
I remember downloading the YUKA app and grabbing a trash bag. I literally scanned all of my skincare and threw away all of my lightening products, and other harmful and/or poorly rated skincare.
It hurt like hell but I knew it was for my own good.
You have been advised and supported by our partner pharmacist Dr Nelie, aka La therma on social networks.
How did you meet her?
I discovered the pharmacist Dr Nelie aka La therma while searching on YouTube to understand and treat my skin problems. I often came across her videos that explained the side effects of skin depigmentation.
Thanks to her content, I became aware that I was depigmenting my skin. I then realized that if I continued like this for a long time, these problems would worsen until they had an irreversible impact on my health.
I then decided to contact her directly by message on her social networks.
During our first meeting, she was very attentive and non-judgmental. She had a lot of compassion for me which allowed me to have confidence in her. We talked a lot about my past and my inner wounds since my childhood. It was very hard, I cried a lot.
As time went by, she helped me psychologically to stop using skin lightening treatments for good. She advised me to use healthy products that would help me regain an even and spotless complexion.
That's how I came to switch from lightening products to IN'OYA products.
There are many ethnic brands on the market.
Why did you decide to trust IN'OYA?
It's true that several brands today claim to be "experts in black, matte and mixed-race skin". During my transition phase, I had researched each of them but I was convinced by the expertise of IN'OYA Laboratory.
They know black skin and formulate skin care products with no lightening ingredients. IN'OYA affirms that its products are effective and safe. Moreover, their presence in pharmacies is also very reassuring. Moreover, La Therma and other beauticians/pharmacists regularly recommend this brand for skin repair for people who are prone to lightening products.
I also really appreciated the brand's support. I was able to talk by phone with the customer relations manager. She listened to my story and was able to advise me on a personalized skin care protocol according to my skin type and my problems. Indeed, in 28 days, I was able to observe the beginning of results. I still have monthly check-ups with them until I can obtain a natural, unified ebony complexion without imperfections.
After you stopped using skin lightening products, how long did it take you to regain your natural, even skin tone?
To be honest, making the decision to stop depigmenting your skin is not easy, but the skin transition period is the most difficult! Going from a light depigmented complexion to a natural, even and blemish-free complexion is very long. That's why, during this phase, the psychological dilemma between continuing or cracking sets in very quickly. Hence the importance of being well surrounded.
In my case, I would say that I have been in this skin transition for almost a year.
After I stopped using skin lightening products, I had to wait 2 months to see the beginning of a change. My complexion was not uniform and I had many spots and pimples.
1 year later, I have no more spots. My complexion is gradually becoming more even as the spots are fading.
Do you think that reading such a testimony when you were younger could have helped you to stop lightening treatments earlier?
Unfortunately, voluntary depigmentation has always been a taboo subject in African, Asian, Hindu, etc. culture. However, I think more and more people of my generation are starting to loosen their tongues on this subject. Which is a good thing! Indeed, I would have liked to read such a testimony when I felt lost and alone in front of my skin problems and my uneven depigmented complexion.
The sellers of skin lightening products always told me that it was impossible to stop applying "tchoko" (the name of the lightening products in Lingala) once you start because you will never get back your original complexion. But this is false! False and false! I have now understood that you can get back your original complexion but you have to do it in time and be patient, but it is possible! So we need more of this kind of testimonies and awareness campaigns on voluntary depigmentation to counterbalance their speeches.
Marie, thank you for your confidence and for having the courage to share your story with us. Do you have any last advice to share with us?
I would like someone who doesn't know how to stop to be able to say: IT IS POSSIBLE! That there is nothing more beautiful than loving yourself naturally and that today brands like IN'OYA can accompany us every day in this sense.
These are values to be transmitted to the future generations who are watching us. Indeed, we parents must not forget that valuing our children's physical and intellectual qualities is a determining factor in their social life. Thus, they will not be weakened by discriminating and destructive remarks inside and outside! This will be possible because the base is already solid in their family circle.