In days of old people went through extreme measures often looking worse than the zombies from Michael Jackson's Thriller video.
They tried using all sorts of household products from Camomile lotion - meant for chicken pox - Kiwi light brown polish to Cuticura antiseptic ointment.
Today, a bunch of harmful products still exist - and at very cheap prices - 
which promises to lighten the skin pigment, including Extra Clair Lightening Cream, Princess Medicated Beauty Cream and Lemonvate Cream.
But these products contain illegal ingredients, mercury or hydroquinone or both, which can permanently scar the skin.
The desire to be wheat coloured has picked up again since celebs such as Nomasonto "Mshoza" Maswanganyi and Khanyi Mbau paid thousands of rands to professionally turn them into yellow bones.
So attractive the trend seems to be that there is even an Official Yellow Bone Factory based in the heart of Sandton, Klevehill Park, in Johannesburg.
But this place doesn't only lighten the skin, it darkens it too.
Founder of the Yellow Bone Factory, Neo Mobita, opened shop three years ago primarily as an online entity.
She says the need for such a place is a logical response to the dilemma of individuals using harmful products.
"We create beautification and enhancement products that achieve the desired results without presenting any complications.
"Skin lightening is a private ritual that has been observed by many people in the privacy of their own constructions of what beauty is to them, for eons. The issue is that most of the methods used to achieve the end of 'beauty' have not always resulted in beautifying, but rather, in damaging the skin and body."
Mobita says the name came about simply because it's a catchy colloquialism that expresses an idea of beauty and self presentation that they felt represented their client base.
"The term 'yellowbone' speaks to the idea of someone who redefines ideas about themselves with a confidence and finesse that is envied by those who lack that confidence and finesse.
"A yellowbone is someone who radiates confidence and expresses themselves freely and with so much love for themselves that they accentuate their features and enhance their appearance almost as if in celebration of that love and confidence of themselves. The Yellowbone Factory is an establishment where tools are provided to assist individuals in crafting their conceptions of their utmost beautification and perfection of themselves," she says.

Wide variety

They offer a wide variety of products to lighten or darken skin, grow hair, lose or gain weight and generally, how to maintain a flawless physical appearance.
"Our products vary in price and cater to the aspirations and capabilities of anyone with the desire to transform or enhance their appearance.
"For skin, we offer brightening, lightening, whitening, de-pigmenting and illuminating treatments. We offer, oral, topical, injection and alternative therapy solutions. For hair, we offer growth, volumisation and maintenance solutions. Here too we have oral, topical and alternative therapy solutions. We specialise in the treatment of natural and chemically treated African hair.
"For weight, we offer solutions that can assist in the gaining, losing or maintenance of body fat or muscle. In this line of products we have oral, injection and alternative therapy solutions as well as a variety of lifestyle products."
Mobitsa swears that all their products are safe.
"We manufacture our own products from scratch. They do not contain any hydroquinone, cortisone, mercury, lead or steroids. They are safe to use without the risk of unnecessary exposure to carcinogens and other unsavoury elements. Also, we offer our products as part of a treatment package rather than as singular items."

All race groups

So is this where Mzansi's wannabe yellowbones go to?
"We have a strict non-disclosure policy where we cannot divulge any information about any of our clients. We can however confirm that we have dealt with quite a few very high-profile individuals," she says.
The factory sees on average 18 to 30 walk-in clients and 200 to 300 email and telephonic enquiries a day.
She explains that contrary to popular misconceptions, skin lightening is done by men and women of all races and gender profiles - not only dark-skinned blacks.
"We have a very strong Caucasian, Asian and African client base that spreads across age and class spectrum. We offer a consultation and evaluation (which is not compulsory but is definitely recommended), to all our clients. In the consultation and evaluation, we have an exhaustive discussion with the client where we explain the role and function of each product and product line in relation to the client's goals and budget.
"We are confident that our clients are intelligent and autonomous individuals who are conscious of their choices and certainly not deserving of the presumptive judgement that they do not know what they are doing.
"We operate from the premise that people who want to alter their physical appearance know what they are doing and our job is to simply guide them through the different methodological options available to them for achieving their desired ends," says Mobitsa.
They hope to set up offices in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal in the near future.