LAYERING on bleaching creams and soaking his hands in whitening serums was part of a regular cosmetic routine for Daniel Murrell-Williams.
The influencer, 27, had been slathering on the lotions since the age of 17 — and felt the lighter his skin, the more compliments he received.
Daniel says: “While many people start bleaching their skin due to ‘colourism’, I was introduced to it by the Caribbean-Jamaican community as a way of managing acne when I was 17, without realising what it actually meant.
“My friend handed me a tub without a label or any clues as to what was in it.
“I started to see results within a week, and people’s attitudes towards me instantly changed.
“Instead of being the ‘Oreo’ and a white man in a black body — I was called ‘Michael Jackson’ long before I started bleaching my skin, as I didn’t dress or sound like people expected — I was getting compliments.
“Soon, in addition to the cream, I was layering whitening serums, body washes and lotions from beauty suppliers, spending upwards of £200 a month.
“I would soak my hands in serum for hours at a time to try to lighten my knuckles.”
Daniel appears on BBC Two’s Beauty And The Bleach, a documentary in which Tan France, host of Netflix hit Queer Eye, explores the dangerous world of skin lightening.
Stylist Tan bleached his skin at the age of nine in a bid to stop racist bullying in his home town of Doncaster.
He recalled: “It didn’t matter the cost, I prioritised buying the skin bleach above all else, even putting it before my bills and rent.
“I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was addicted to whitening my skin. After being bullied since the age of six, and struggling with my identity as a flamboyant, queer, black child, I was used to keeping secrets and hiding my true self.
“When people questioned me on whether I was using whitening products, I dodged the questions or lied.
“I couldn’t even notice the difference in my skin colour — despite it literally peeling off at some points.
“It’s only looking back now that I realise how much it had changed.”
In the documentary, Tan delves into colourism, where people are judged on the shade of their skin.
He speaks to Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland, who says she was once compared to the colour of a brown paper bag by a boyfriend’s grandmother.
Tan looks at issues such as advertising pushing a beauty ideal and colonialism.
For Daniel, he felt that having lighter skin allowed him to be the person he wanted to be.
He explains: “A few months after I began bleaching my skin, I moved to Swindon to attend uni and set up an Instagram account under the name Phillip, and started introducing myself as Phillip to people I met on nights out.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was addicted to whitening my skin. After being bullied since the age of six, and struggling with my identity as a flamboyant, queer, black child, I was used to keeping secrets and hiding my true self.
“Along with the lighter skin, it became an alter-ego — a way of being the man I had always been too afraid to show growing up, and it gave me a new-found confidence.
“But my skin still wasn’t light enough, so I was editing photos to make myself look lighter.”
Not all, but many skin-lightening products are illegal due to ingredients that are banned under EU safety regulations, including mercury and hydroquinone.
Regular and prolonged use of these ingredients is linked to skin damage, poisoning and liver and kidney malfunction.
They can also contain corticosteroids which are prescription-only drugs in the UK and have been linked to skin cancer.
When he started bleaching his skin, Daniel had no idea of the dangers.
He says: “As my follower count began to increase, I started posting videos on YouTube, and mentioned the products I was using on my skin.
“It was only then that I realised how bad they actually were. I had concerned people commenting and DM-ing me with articles and evidence on the damage they could be causing.
“It was the wake-up call I needed.
“Even though my family had previously told me how bad bleaching could be, I hid the worst from them and didn’t take them seriously.
As my follower count began to increase, I started posting videos on YouTube, and mentioned the products I was using on my skin. It was only then that I realised how bad they actually were.
“Ultimately, it was the people watching my videos who encouraged me to stop.
“I realised I didn’t want to have to spend the money or worry about hiding the habit any more.”
After a decade, Daniel has now stopped using skin-lightening products.
He says: “It’s been 18 months since I gave up and luckily I don’t have any permanent scars.
“My skin still isn’t quite as dark as it used to be but I think it will get there once I get a tan.
“Being able to accept who I am has helped heal my relationship with myself but also with other people in my life, like my mum.
“Not long after I posted my skin-bleaching video, I came out as gay on YouTube and that video trended at number nine in the UK.
“It’s nice to feel 100 per cent happy in my skin.”