Beth Parkes

Beth Parkes

Department of History
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: Skin Deep: Beauty and Skin Colour in the Black Atlantic, 1960-85 
SupervisorProfessor Gavin Schaffer, Dr Sadiah Qureshi and Dr Michell Chresfield
PhD History


I am a cultural historian of race and beauty in twentieth-century Britain, United States and the Caribbean. My current project is an inclusive history of complexion seen through the lens of specific beauty processes and body modification, such as suntanning, bleaching, and make-up from 1960-85. This period witnessed the ‘golden age of suntanning’, which saw the white-but-tanned bourgeois woman become the ‘ideal’ standard of beauty. This systematically marginalised women of colour, rendering the possibility of being seen as beautiful unreachable. Longstanding historical hauntings of colonialism, coupled with marginalisation through beauty practices, ideals, and products, saw the production and sales of skin tone creams soar from the 1930s onwards. Using oral histories and multi-archival research, my thesis examines how these bodily histories intersected with transnational beauty practices, and presents an inclusive investigation into the modification of complexion and motivations of women’s beauty and make-up practices in Britain, the US, and the Caribbean.