How does the beauty industry ‘narrate the skin’? What does it teach women from different cultural groups about the female body? How does skin function as a site where female subjection and abjection are produced and reproduced? In this paper we examine the skin industry pointing to its extreme commodification of the female body and to the inexcusable pressure this places on females of most age and cultural groups.We focus on two examples. Firstly, we show what the skin industry teaches girls and women about both their skin colour ‘problems’ and desirable practices of whitening and, secondarily, tanning. Secondly, we consider what the cosmetic surgery industry teaches us about female bodily ‘imperfections’ linked to certain ethnic and racial groups and the necessary ‘remedies’. Overall we show how the socio-cultural normalization of perfect skin is a product of a range of contemporary and enduring social and cultural forces overlain by complex pedagogies of power, expertise and affect.
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