Following the lead of Coco Chanel and other fashion mavens, American women of the mid-1920s also stopped protecting their skin from the sun and instead gloried in deep bronze suntans. A winter tan, in particular, became a prestigious status symbol, indicating that the possessor had both the money and the time to vacation in sunny locations such as California, Florida, or even Italy. Those without much disposable income often had to settle for self-tanning liquids and powders that claimed to achieve the effect of a natural suntan. (1)
Not all women, however desired a dark skin. Some African-American women spent a great deal of time and money attempting to lighten their skin so it more closely resembled a white complexion. Hundreds of bleaching lotions and other whitening potions were marketed in beauty shops, drugstores, newspapers, magazines, and mail-order catalogues. (1)
Advertisements for products with suggestive names such as “Black-No-More”, “Fair-Plex Ointment”, and “Cocotone Skin Whitener”, promised (or at least implied) that, with repeated applications, African-American women would be rewarded with an attractive, pale skin tone. (1)
Not surprisingly, the very idea of skin whiteners sparked intense controversies in African-American communities. While many women, particularly light-complexioned African Americans, bought these oinments and believed the advertisers’ false claims, others spurned these products and vehemently rejected the notion that lightning one’s skin was either desirable or possible. (1)
(1) The 1920s (American Popular Culture Through History) by Kathleen Drowne and Patrick Huber, 2004
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