If you’re a beautiful cocoa or caramel colored sister, then you already know all about this stuff.

I guess the first time I used a fade cream was in high school. I don’t remember if my family turned me on to them, or if it was my school friends. I do recall that most of the girls in my class used them. Clareesha used Ambi. Tawanda used Crusader. Mary used Topiclear. Mariah used Palmer’s Skin Success. And so on. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, but you catch my drift. They were popular products among my peers. The one that we used was called – wait for it – Fair and White. I kid you not.

I’m pretty sure that this product isn’t sold in America. Also, please note that the product is called whitening cream. Or “whitenizer.” I know that many of my Caucasian or lighter-complexioned friends have always used tanning oils, the stuff that turns their palms orange. But that stuff isn’t called “blackening cream” or “blackanizer,” right? No. Because that sounds like a product in a Dave Chappelle sketch. (on a personal note, I love Dave Chappelle. I wish he would just get a new show on HBO, already.)
The whole industry of fade creams doesn’t sit right with me, for many reasons. That name on the label is just one of them. I didn’t use Fair & White to bleach out my skin. I used it on the dark spots left behind after I had a bad zit (which usually happens on my chin, see Carol’s Daughter photo for evidence), and I was usually advised to use the products under my arms, on the back of my neck, or on my knees – all areas where black women tend to have darker colored skin. But I definitely knew girls who used it every day, all over their face. They were the ones who had light-skin-Michael-Jackson faces and dark-skin-Michael-Jackson necks and arms. I’m not going to get on a moral high horse and say fade creams are wrong, just as I will never say hair relaxers, weaves, or colored contact lenses are wrong. I always say, do you. I’m just saying; nobody wants to wind up looking like the poster child for these ointments, do they? So, so tragic.

I’m interested in finding out what you guys think about these products. They seem awfully old-school to me. It breaks my heart that so many women in Africa still feel the need to use these products, and still believe that white is right instead of black is beautiful. But recently when I was looking for a good moisturizer with a high SPF that would help clear up my skin, I found myself staring at an old, familiar name.

Despite my mixed feelings, I’ve been using Ambi Even & Clear Skincare Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30 for about three weeks now. It has no whitenizing power, just an unusually high SPF to combat the Miami sun. It seems to be helping with my post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. I have no major complaints, but I suspect that this product would be terrible for someone with sensitive skin.

I switch between three different moisturizers, all with varying degrees of SPF. I bought Neutrogena Visibly Even Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15, and I agree with the reviews on Drugstore.com. It’s a meh kind of product. I’ve seen Gabrielle Union shilling for this stuff, which is part of why I bought it – isn’t she gorgeous? But I have to say, I haven’t noticed much of a result on me. It tends to melt off my face. Like I said, meh.

I would much rather use Kiehl’s Abyssine Lotion. I got a great product sample that’s been lasting me a while. But it’s pricey stuff, y’all. I’m still looking for the perfect moisturizer. The perfect product that will alleviate dark spots, even my skin tone, protect me from the sun, help me control oil all day long, and oh yeah – cost less than $15. If anyone has a recommendation, holla.

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Tai says:
August 30, 2006, 11:37 am
Love your site. I found this article last week, in reference to lightening skin, in some African countries. Scarring themselves for "beauty" with bootleg products. http://www.womenone.org/etcetera_7205.htm Most countries where you have people of color, you find skin lighteners/whiteners. East Indian/Pakistani grocery stories have shelves and shelves of skin lightening products. Japan has "white pills". The new faze with Black Brazilians is bleaching their body hair. I was in Bahia in February and was like "WTF" most of the time. Black folks walking around with yellow arm/leg hair. And that's men and women.
bella says:
August 30, 2006, 12:09 pm
Thanks for responding, Tai! In the Caribbean these products are very popular, and I know in East Indian and Pakistani societies as well. My mom tells me a story from my early childhood - when I was born, we had an Indian friend, let's call her Anita. When she saw me for the first time she lamented to my parents, "it's a shame that she came out so dark." Both of my parents are pretty light skinned, and she assumed I would be like them, or lighter. You're born who you are, and to try to alter your appearance in such a complete way is terribly sad. People need to love themselves for who they are.
JahGyal says:
August 30, 2006, 4:35 pm
Re: Bleaching Creams after several years of fighting hyper-pigmentation, especially on my legs (all due to my insane allergic reaction to mosquitoes, ever since I was a child...and get this I live in the Caribbean), I finally decided to try one of these products. Mainly because my wedding approaches in Nov. I want to be fabulous from head to toe. I settled on the ambi, because it was the only one whose name didn't offend me. I also looked twice/thrice/ to make certain nobody who knows me saw me buying the offending product, I also bought several other products none of which I needed, just to make certain that nobody would pay attention to the Ambi. Anyway, been using it semi-religiously for the past 2 months, only on the offending marks and its working, but every single time I have to use it, I'm mad at myself...Strange huh!
JahGyal says:
August 30, 2006, 4:39 pm
Oh yeah forgot to say that I'm a major fan, we have the same influences, and I also just went natural myself and now am sporting a TWA ...Love it...Can't wait for it to get like Pam Grier (of Old...you know the Original Foxy Brown) and would love for you to do more hair things...especially anything that will give moi a super fly hairstyle for her wedding. Right now, I'm thinking blown out fro, or curly fro (courtesy of two strand twists) and a flower... Anyway, i'm thru monopolizing your blog! But Lovin it just the same
Ayanna says:
August 30, 2006, 6:29 pm
Well hear nah. See me trying to remember a Tawanda in our year group!!!
Triniprincess says:
September 2, 2006, 2:04 pm
If you want a really good sunblock you should try La Roche Posay. It comes from Europe and costs about $20USD (dont pay more than that) QUite frankly its what keeps Nicole Kidman that colour after honeymooning in the islands. For hyperpigmentation there is a brand here in Canada called Neostrata its 4% hydroquinone with some retional thrown it. I use it every so ofetn cause the ance scars on my chin piss me off. For a daily moisturiser - Garnier has a gd one under $15 or else Bella u may haveto spend a lil coin - its your face after all - dont buy all Carol's products and your face isnt up to scratch
Shawna says:
September 5, 2006, 8:27 pm
I used Fair & White about 10 years ago and not because I wanted to be fair and white either.After my son I had Melasma and was told it would go away but wanted to speed the process up a bit.I knew fade creams used in this country didn't work so I didn't even try them.Then one day I read an interview with deceased make-up artist Kevin Aucoin who spoke of a cream he used to get rid of blemishes on models that was only sold in Japan as the ingredient hadn't been approved in this country.Then while browsing a beauty supply store I saw F&W had the ingredient he spoke of and so I bought it.Two weeks later, my brown Whitney Houston complexioned skin was the color of Vaness Williams (former Miss America) skin.The horrible part is I had only used the cream around my mouth and chin where the melasma was, so you know I looked really jacked up.I was scared to death my face would stay that way but it didn't.It took a few weeks of me hiding out in my home but my skin's natural color eventually came back.Do not try that stuff no matter what you do.My skin was a very funny looking color and I looked like a monster.Thank God I'm my beatutiful old self again :)
Sisa says:
November 18, 2006, 7:06 pm
I use Ambi exfoliating all over my face,not because I try to be lighter, just because some acne let out ugly "little to medium" size spots, but since these spot are well spread on my face I used it. Is it bad for my skin?Is it going to make it lighter? I just don't want to give the wrong impression, I liked my face before :S! I don't want to look like michael jackson!
rik says:
July 3, 2007, 6:35 pm
Lightening creams can be harsh but I will always recommend Topiclear to get rid of dark marks on the legs. Within a month, mosquito scars from childhood were gone. I was inspired to try on my knees too but that didn't work! Anyway, my final thought was that if it was so effective on my legs and feet (with much less delicate skin than on my face) I wouldn't dare put it on my face. BTW, I have dark complexion and the Neutrogena Visibly Even Line works really well and fast on fresh acne marks but takes SO MUCH LONGER on older ones. They have added an exfoliating scrub to their line that is really good and leaves your face fresh, clean and clear. That and the night cream are great and it just gives you a better version of your own complexion (no lightening).
davita says:
February 9, 2008, 2:16 am
i have been thinking about using one but my whole body is jacked my neck is damn black so maybe i should apply to the whole body p.s i am bernie mac black wesley snipes black need i said no more peace with a foxy brown afro no perm here
brit says:
February 29, 2008, 1:32 am
i use lightening cream only cause it evens out my skin tone , not to be lighter. and i only use one with kojic acid not hydroquinone cause it is bad for you.
Ada says:
August 1, 2008, 12:39 am
Actually, F&W is still in the market. My mom sells it at her Afro-Carribean store. She uses it too.
Channel says:
January 21, 2009, 11:54 am
I have sme brown spots on my skin can you please help.
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