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Communities that KARE: Amira Adawe

The founder of 'The Beautywell Project' is shining a light on the dark practice of skin lightening.

MINNEAPOLIS — Clearer and brighter skin: what woman wouldn't want that, right? Unfortunately, there are companies pushing products that takes that concept to the extreme. They're not just brightening skin, they're trying to lighten it with dangerous chemicals.

Amira Adawe is the executive director of The Beautywell Project, a nonprofit dedicated to educational outreach, research and policy advocacy. Adawe says, skin lightening is a huge issue. "It's not only in the state of Minnesota. [It's] all of the U.S. [and] also a global issue," she said. 

The Beautywell Project wants to raise more awareness about this issue so people understand that it is about more than just beauty standards. "We're dealing with young kids and pregnant women getting exposed to different chemicals -- especially mercury," said Adawe.

Mercury is toxic. The Beautywell Project's research shows the chemical in skin lightening creams and soaps can cause rashes, scars, kidney damage and in some cases, brain damage in children.

So why would anyone take that risk? The answer dates back hundreds of years. "Communities that have experienced historically colonializations and also slavery were told only if they looked light skin they were more prettier and had economic well being," explained Adawe.

There's also the pressure to fit in. "Some of the young immigrant girls, even if they were born here, they're still having so many diversity issues. They don't completely fit in the American culture, they don't completely fit in their native culture, " said Adawe.

The damage spreads beyond the person who uses the cream. 

"We have seen in home exposure where women use these products in their home and mercury stays in the air, "Adawe recalled.

This is where Adawe says The Beautywell Project's work is incredibly important -- showing women they don't need to take these drastic steps to feel comfortable in their own skin. 

"We uplift our communities to make sure that we redefine what beauty is. that everybody is accepted regardless of what they look like and embrace who they are," said Adawe. 

Communities that KARE is sponsored by Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union.

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