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Q: dermatology ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: dermatology
Category: Science > Biology
Asked by: petey72-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 26 Mar 2003 17:54 PST
Expires: 25 Apr 2003 18:54 PDT
Question ID: 181468
Hi, this is to settle a bet with a friend of mine.  The basis of the
question is a book called "Black like Me" by John Howard Griffin.  The
book is is a real life account of a white man (Griffin) who turns
himself black in order to conduct a sociological experiment.  My
question is, would it be possible for any white person to do the same
thing or would the person have to have a certain complexion, color
hair, etc?  Thanks.

Request for Question Clarification by tutuzdad-ga on 26 Mar 2003 18:11 PST
Does your question only involve changing the pigmentation of one's
skin or are you asking if it would be physiologically possible, for
the purposes of your question, for a person to change his entire
physical appearance, say, from typical caucasian features, traits and
appearance as defined by someone such as an anthropologist to what
this same scientist might consider typical negro, african, indian (or
some other person of color) characteristics?


Clarification of Question by petey72-ga on 27 Mar 2003 13:27 PST
I understand the question is vague.  In terms of common sense, would
any white person be able to do what Griffin did to the extent that if
you saw this person on the street you would think he or she was black
rather than white?  Does that help? If not, I'll try to clarify again.
I don't know if you're familiar with Black like Me, but it might be
helpful to look through that book to see what I mean.
Subject: Re: dermatology
Answered By: jeremymiles-ga on 28 Mar 2003 01:58 PST
For the BBC TV programme "Trading Races" they used make up to
transform people's race from black to white and white to black.

According to:

"Make-up designer Amber Sibley and her team had the additional
challenge of needing to work with people who could be physically
changed, so that they would look convincing as another ethnicity. On
the advice of Amber we restricted the age range of potential
contributors to between 18 and 45 years."

They did not appear to select based on appearance.  The technique
involved only make-up, and some prosthetics to slightly alter the face
of the shape.

The people were filmed, at various locations - including a black man
(made up to be white) at a National Front rally, and a white man (made
up to be black) at a dinner gathering who was asked where his
relatives came from.

Interestingly, the black man (made up to be white) was at a nightclub,
and some people said "He dances too well for a white man".

So, based on this, I believe that the answer to your question is yes.

Search strategy: I knew of the programme, so went to,
and searched for "Trading Races".

Clarification of Answer by jeremymiles-ga on 28 Mar 2003 03:10 PST
A couple more websites (found by searching for "trading races" on

I also forgot to say: please feel free to request clarification, if
you feel that this does not answer your question.
Subject: Re: dermatology
From: pinkfreud-ga on 27 Mar 2003 13:57 PST
Griffin took psoralen drugs which, in combination with Ultraviolet A
treatments, cause skin to darken. This is a legitimate medical
procedure when it is used to treat conditions such as vitiligo and
psoriasis, but it might be difficult to find a reputable physician who
is willing to prescribe psoralens and UVA for non-medical reasons. The
likelihood of lawsuits would be high, since there are risks associated
with the procedure.

"Psoralens were made infamous in 1959 when John Howard Griffin, the
author of Black Like Me, took psoralens in conjunction with medical
grade UV lamp exposure to darken his skin. After his death, it was
rumored that the psoralens had killed him, but in reality he died from
complications of diabetes.

Psoralens do not make the skin darker without exposure to UV, and that
exposure must be carefully regulated. Psoralens in conjunction with
regulated UV exposure is called PUVA treatment, and has been used for
years for vitiligo patients. It is also used for treatment of
psoriasis, which can be life threatening in extreme cases. The hazards
of the treatment have caused many dermatologists to recommend it only
for patients with dark skin, never for people with red or blond hair,
blue eyes, etc.

I am shocked when visitors to this web site inform me that their
doctor prescribed psoralens to them so that they could get a tan on
vacation. What's next? Maybe the doctor will prescribe some
methamphetamines for you so you can lose weight.

Psoralens work by making the skin hypersensitive to the sun: damage,
and therefore melanin production, is accelerated. Any doctor who
prescribes psoralens to someone merely for tanning purposes is putting
their patient at serious risk for skin cancer."
Subject: Re: dermatology
From: xarqi-ga on 27 Mar 2003 14:49 PST
I have a theory that the level of alpha melanocyte stimulating hormone
produced by the pituitary sets the maximum rate of melanogenesis,
while locally (that is, within the epidermis) production of an
endothelin determines the actual level within this range.  Conceivably
(to me at least), application of an endothelin ointment or lotion
should do the trick.  aMSH injection may be necessary to increase the
maximal rate.

Note, as far as I'm aware, this is total speculation.  I don't know if
it has been tried or not, but to me it makes sense.

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