Rapper Azealia Banks defended the use of skin lightening products after she received backlash from people who believe it goes against her previous comments on black culture. 

Banks has been outspoken about anti-black racism and cultural appropriation in hip hop, calling out other artists. Now that she's found herself on the defensive, she's asking, "What's the difference between getting a nose job and changing your skin colour?"

In a 21-minute long Facebook Live video posted on July 1, the rapper responded to questions fans were asking about her decision to lighten her skin.

"To say that it negates anything that I've said about this current situation of blackness in America, is ignorant and just stupid," Banks says. 

"What do body modifications have to do with somebody's level of intellect? The two don't correlate."

Assimilating to white culture

In the video, Banks describes skin lightening as another example of assimilating to white culture, just like "speaking clear English." 

"It's just a continuation of the falsification of self that comes with being a black person in America," Banks said. 

"The paradox of being black in 2016."

Her remarks were widely criticized on social media.

Banks dismissed the criticism, equating skin lightening procedures to getting a chemical peel or applying acne medication. 

"I consider skin lightening to be anything that's removing a layer [of skin]," Banks said.


Skin lightening dermatology

Dr. Julia Carroll, director and dermatologist at Compass Dermatology in Toronto, told CBC News bleaching or lightening is "a specific process which targets melanin or pigment in the skin" by applying cream or using a laser. 

"Simply removing layers of skin may not actually target pigmentation or go deep enough to remove pigmentation," Carroll said. 

She adds that Canadians who are considering using skin lightening products should know where they came from and if they are approved in Canada. 

'I often see products that patients have smuggled in from Asia or Africa or even purchased in Chinatown.' - Dr. Julia Carroll, dermatologist

"I often see products that patients have smuggled in from Asia or Africa or even purchased in Chinatown," Carroll said. "They are labelled in a foreign language, so I don't know what they contain and certainly can't speak to their safety. Approved over-the-counter lightening products are safe if used as directed." 

Beauty standards

While Banks supports a woman's choice to alter their complexion, she warns that the world of skin bleaching "is a very deep, dark world" and that women should be cautious about using the right products.

She also points to women of other races who choose to modify their appearance in different ways, as a result of what she calls "cross-cultural ideas of beauty." 

"You see this dream being sold to women everywhere," Banks said. 

Critics weren't the only ones who responded to Banks's video. Others came to her defence and pointed out she's not the only celebrity to make this choice.