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It doesn’t matter how dark a man is, of course — the pressure is all on women.’Skin lightening is a multi-billion-pound global industry.

Yet Irene, who’s 34 and lives with her husband and four children in a Kent mansion, claims that in some communities the pressure on women to use such products is overwhelming.‘A skin-lightening regime has been part of my life practically since birth,’ she claims.In removing the top layer of skin, which initially results in a ‘brighter’ looking face, it also removes the body’s natural defence against infection and the sun, increasing the risk of skin cancer.If it enters the bloodstream, it can cause fatal liver and kidney damage.Holland & Barrett, meanwhile, insist their cream is specifically for use on skin blemishes such as ‘age spots, liver spots, freckles, sun damaged skin and scars’, and contains a brown algae called Ascophyllum nodosum, which has ‘proven skin whitening attributes’, according to a spokesman.But it’s not just the ethics of skin lightening that concern campaigners.

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