3 Countries Unveil a $14 Million Plan to Address the Skin-Bleaching Industry

The adverse effects of Eurocentric beauty standards have been well-documented, especially over the last few decades. From race-based hair discrimination to colorism, people have become more vocal about pushing back against these ideals however they can. One industry that has long profited from these ideals, however, is the skin-bleaching sector. For years, countless brands around the world have sold cosmetics with the promise to slow the body's production of melanin, touting lighter skin, fewer freckles, and faded dark spots. This has only perpetuated the message that whiteness and its accompanying features are the ideal.

The governments of Gabon, Jamaica, and Sri Lanka, in particular, have joined forces and are launching a joint $14 million project to address, and ultimately eliminate, the use of mercury in skin-lightening products. Led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and executed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI), the "Eliminating Mercury Skin Lightening Products" project will work to reduce the risk of exposure to mercury in skin-lightening products while raising awareness of the health risks associated with their uses. Additionally, it will help to develop model regulations to reduce the circulation of these products and halt production, trade, and distribution across domestic and international markets.

"Mercury is a hidden and toxic ingredient in the skin lightening creams that many people are using daily, often without an understanding of just how dangerous this is," GEF Chief Executive Officer and chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodriguez tells POPSUGAR in a press release. "This initiative is significant as it focuses not only on substitutions for harmful ingredients but on awareness building that can help change behaviors that are damaging to individual health as well as the [health of the] planet."

While this project is a step in the right direction, skin lightening as a whole is a multibillion dollar industry, and there is still much work to be done on a global scale. Black and brown skin deserves to be celebrated, as it is, no questions asked (or creams needed). We can only hope that this swift action from three governments is a signal of exactly that — and that more countries decide to follow suit.