Does skin discrimination cause depression?


I remember as a young child I would look at characters I saw on TV and wished I looked like them. I wished I had long straight hair and fair skin. Majority of the characters I saw in media that did look like me weren’t positive. I remember it made me feel that maybe if I was lighter I would get the positive attention my white counterpart got. I was in my women studies class and we were reviewing a topic of race relations when this blog idea came to me. Enjoy.

European beauty standards are a societal norm that imply white skin is the most beautiful, and anything deviating away from that is subpar. According to a study done by Bryant in the Columbia Social Work Review, the psychological effects that European beauty standards have on black women are negative. European beauty standards can lead to a negative perception of self as a darker-skinned black women. According to Bryant’s study, because black women (especially dark-skinned black women) do not meet European beauty standards, they are more likely to face depression because of the feeling of inadequacy.

These negative internalized feelings are significant risk factors for depression in black women. In Bryant’s study, her and others evaluated the direct and indirect effects of skin tone and discrimination. This study suggested a link between discrimination and emotional well-being. Dark skin black women were more likely to be depressed if they were discriminated against by their peers due to their darkness.

As we learned in class, correlation does not equal causation and personal anecdotes can be incredibly powerful and moving yet hold no substance. This was my favorite topic writing thus far. There isn’t much scientific research done in regards to this topic. I question the validity of this observation because socio-economic status plays a significant role in risk factoring. Also the time this study was done (media has been increasingly inclusive over the past 20 years). And the fact I only have one credible source means there isn’t any other observations I can compare it to. Still, this is food for thought. Thanks for reading.

4 thoughts on “Does skin discrimination cause depression?

  1. lkr5215

    This is an interesting topic! This is not something that is talked about enough and the topic is very original. It is always very sad to see that pale skin and straight hair is the standard of beauty. There could be many sub topics on this. While there was not much science involved in the topic I still believe this was a great thing to blog about.

    1. Ademilola Esther Badejo Post author

      Honestly, I was relatively weary about posting this blog to the class. We go to a predominantly white school and I was afraid of the response. I do realize that white guilt is problematic and can/will come across as angry very easily. This was very encouraging thank you!

  2. Taylor M Stewart

    Wow! what an intriguing and touchy subject to talk about. I remember as a little girl Barbies were really popular, but as an African American, it was relieving to see more African American dolls being produced. It’s really disheartening that people become depressed due to their skin color, an example of this is in a video I found where children find lighter skinned dolls to be more beautiful, found here

    1. Ademilola Esther Badejo Post author

      YES! The doll test shows how colorism is prevalent in the black community. It’s rather disheartening to see how brainwashing occurs in children of such young ages. Then these children grow up believing they are subpar; whether it is consciously or subconsciously. Thanks for the comment!

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