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Skin lightening ad on TTC gets under social media skin



By Joe Warmington , Toronto Sun

First posted: Thursday, November 27, 2014 08:39 PM EST | Updated: Thursday, November 27, 2014 08:54 PM EST
TORONTO - So who wants to have lighter skin?


Apparently a lot of people. And there will be more if Dr. Jean-Jacques Dugoua gets his way.


On Monday his ad went up on TTC subway cars promoting a treatment called LightNaturalSkin.com to “get brighter and lighter skin.”


The ad also has a split frame, before and after picture of a black woman who received the lightening and what appears to be a South Asian woman.


For such things as “hyperpigmentation, skin discolouration and sun-damaged skin,” it promotes “safe and natural treatment using intravenous (IV) glutathione resulting in brighter, lighter and glowing skin.”


Needless to say, the advertisement has gotten under a number of people’s skin. Some are calling it — and the whole process of lightening a person’s skin colour — racist.


The TTC’s Brad Ross confirmed Thursday they had received two complaints. This came after numerous people on social media posted pictures of the ad and some harsh commentary.


The first came on Twitter courtesy of Emily M. ( @EmilyKnits ) at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday. She tweeted “this is disgusting. On the Toronto subway. #antiblackness.”
She followed up Thursday with “Hyperpigmentation? Pathologizing Blackness. Just vile.”


My first call was to the Liberty Clinic at Yonge and Bloor Sts. where this skin work is being done. Friendly receptionist Pauline said it was all on the up and up and all professional and legitimate. “It’s an IV drip, not a cream,” she said. “It helps lighten the skin. It’s really popular. Lots of black ladies are coming in for treatments and Asian.”


She put me on the phone with venerable and gregarious Dugoua who tells me he goes by “Dr. JJ.”


He said he was aware of the tweets and admitted he was surprised because never once did it occur to him that what they were doing would be considered discriminatory.


“We are trying to help people here,” he said.


When asked if the procedure was being done for cosmetic or medical purposes, Dugoua said, “It’s a combination.”


“There are a small percentage of people who use it to lighten their skin but the vast majority do so because of uneven skin tone, have abrasions or scars, or a change in appearance because of a pregnancy,” he said. “This is not a bleaching.”


It is, he said, more of a vitamin or enzyme that essentially shuts down the melanin which creates the skin tone, resulting in lighter skin.


“Glutathione is an antioxidant from the liver,” he said. “A person’s skin colour comes from melanin.”


Dugoua said treatments, which can be done for as low as a few hundred dollars depending on what needs to be done, make up about 20% of his clinic’s business and came about because a patient was asking him about it.


That was three years ago.


The naturopathic doctor said his practices are regulated and the last thing he expected was a call from a newspaper asking about people on Twitter and concerns of race or bigotry.


“We would like it to be a positive thing,” Dugoua said. “We see it as a positive thing.”


Time will tell how the public will react. One tweet Thursday night suggested: “Give their money back, TTC.”


Ross said if the TTC receives five complaints about an ad, it will be reviewed to see if it meets required standards.


So over to you, public. What do you think?


Is it no one’s business whether someone wants to alter their skin pigmentation similar to someone getting a face lift?


Or is this just going too far and preying on people with self-image issues?


I would love to hear from someone who has had this treatment to find out how it went, the reason and the results. There was not someone available to do that Thursday but I will follow this up.


So far I found the doctor to be credible, professional and certainly not racist in anyway. Having said that I still can’t get my head around or fathom why anybody would want to do this.


But I have already learned from comments on social media, regardless of which side you are on, you may need to develop thicker skin.


joe.warmington@sunmedia.ca
Dr. Jean-Jacques Dugoua at his Toronto clinic on Thursday, November 27, 2014. (Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun)

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