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Tan France
courtesy of Instagram/@tanfrance

Queer Eye’s Tan France on succumbing to the pressures of skin bleaching

In his new memoir, Tan France reveals how he would use skin lightening creams as a child and how he now regrets it

“I remember thinking, 'God, I’d give anything to be white,’” Tan France reveals in his new memoir Naturally Tan.

The fashion expert of Netflix’s hit show Queer Eye has opened up about succumbing to the pressures of toxic skin bleaching as a Pakistani child growing up in London in his new memoir released yesterday.  

“The importance of being pale is very bizarre,” France writes. "When I was five, I remember thinking, 'God, I’d give anything to be white. I just want to be white, I want to be white, I want to be white.’ I had been so conditioned to think that if you were white, you were automatically more attractive.”

France first started using skin bleaching cream as young as 10 years old, having stolen it from his cousin. “I haven't had the balls to tell her I took it, because, since then, I’ve been ashamed of the fact that I succumbed to the pressure,” he writes. “I kept the dirty little secret to myself. I’d only use it at night, before bed, when no one else was going to catch me. Let me tell you, that shit hurt.”

Two decades on, however, and he feels radically different. “If you ask me what my favourite thing about my appearance is, I’ll say my skin,” he writes. “I think my skin colour is beautiful.”

France’s comments about white privilege in the beauty industry coincide with the recent backlash against Miss India, in which the beauty pageant came under fire for its homogenous lineup of light-skinned contestants, which critics have called out for not representing India’s true diversity.

The beauty industry has had a complicated relationship with skin bleaching products since the lightening creams of the 1880s and 1890s. Earlier this year Rwanda banned bleaching creams, however, in the UK many products are still available to buy despite science indicating creams containing mercury (the main lightening ingredient in many formulas) can lead to psychosis and kidney failure. However, the conversation is starting to change thanks to stars such as Azealia Banks, Prianka Chopra, and now France speaking out about the dangers of skin bleaching, which will hopefully lead to a cultural shift, thus bringing an end to people feeling pressure to have lighter skin.