The Political and Libidinal Economies of Skin Shade: The Poor Bleach, the Middle Class/Elite Tone/Lighten

  • Shirley Anne Tate


Bleaching is labelled medically harmful and risky by the UK state and its National Health Service and illegal by UK Local Authority Trading Standards Services when it is practiced by poorer Black women using unregulated products from elsewhere containing mercury and hydroquinone. However, middle class/elite skin lightening/toning in Harley Street clinics is part of the global market in acceptable approaches to skin enhancement. The UK’s ‘post-race’ ideology erases the political and libidinal economies of racism, where racial branding affects life chances because the focus of the state/society is on bleaching as Black pathology as the practice is read as the desire to be white. However, we need to think about the relevance to skin lightening of changes in Black Nationalist politics, ‘post-race’ Black aesthetics, and the racialized gender political and libidinal economies of racism and colourism.


National Health Service White Skin Light Skin White Supremacy Chief Medical Officer 
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Copyright information

© Shirley Anne Tate 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shirley Anne Tate
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LeedsUK

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