Sunday, May 14, 2006

Skin-Whitening Cream

Creams that whiten the face and body--often through a process much like chemically burning out the color--has swept much of Asia. Olay and L'Oreal have released products in Asia to profit from this trend. These treatments can be extremely dangerous, according to the NY Times:

Neighbors gawk and children yell, "Ghost!" The manager of the restaurant where Panya Boonchun worked simply told her she was fired.

The cream that she applied to her face and neck was supposed to transform her into a white-skinned beauty, the kind she saw in women's magazines and on television.

But the illegally produced lotion she bought in a store near this village in southeastern Thailand turned her skin into a patchwork of albino pink and dark brown. Doctors say her condition may be irreversible.

"I never look in the mirror anymore," she said, sobbing during an interview.

Whiter skin is being aggressively marketed across Asia, with vast selections of skin-whitening creams on supermarket and pharmacy shelves testament to an industry that has flourished over the past decade. In Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan, 4 of every 10 women use a whitening cream, a survey by Synovate, a market research company, found.

You probably remember "double-eyelid surgery," which was also a very popular means of looking less Asian.

It is, according to the article, tied to the pursuit of a wealthy husband:
Nithiwadi Phuchareuyot, a doctor at a skin clinic in Bangkok who dispenses products and treatments to lighten skin, said: "Every Thai girl thinks that if she has white skin the money will come and the men will come. The movie stars are all white-skinned, and everyone wants to look like a superstar."
But who are we as a culture to look down on these practices, given our substantially similar efforts to look more black by means of tanning? Even John Kerry fell victim to that trend. As with the whitening creams, tanning damages the skin, makes a person less attractive in the long run, and is fundamentally based on finding one's own natural skin color unattractive. Unlike these creams, however, tanning causes cancer. So why does tanning seem less horrific than a substantial portion of Asia using creams that make their skin appear white?

The most likely reason: if both trends are based on an aversion to one's own race, perhaps it simply boils down to white hatred seeming more acceptable than self-hatred in any other group. You could certainly argue that a little white-guilt is understandable for Americans. But leave the skin alone if you want to avoid hypocrisy in the racial tolerance area.


Blogger Goesh said...

- and Caucasions bask in the sun to get a tan - go figure - there is no telling how much money is spent on suntanning lotions and potions, etc.

8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd guess it's more an obsession with celebrity than a race issue. Coco Chanel started our obsession with tanning, after all.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

anon: it is more of a culture issue. although i am american i am borne in an aasian family and in a town overflowed with asian imigrants. I'm dark-skinned and all the time i have people saying, "oh she's pretty, if only she wasn't dark." of course i stare at the celebrities and i get envious, but i wouldn't have noticed or give a wit if my mom, aunts, or these random strangers didn't say anything.

11:09 PM  

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