The available market for skin-whitening product is extensive around the world, from sketchy cream that promises a lightened female genitals to shady deodorants that cure a dark armpit and other alleged miraculous transformations. As such, the market of skin-whitening product in Asia is currently on a steep rise.
For many countries, light-skinned women are typically considered more attractive, they are also believed to be more successful.
The bizarre cultural belief is a result of the traditional mindset that ‘rich people don’t have to work under the hot Sun’ and also due to the multi-million dollar industry that seems to have no end to the whitening products they can create.
The obsession with white pale skin means that many people avoid the sun in their daily lives. One noteworthy example is the thriving skin-whitening industry in Thailand.
The Thais have it one step further with expressions that equate dark skin with unpleasant things, such as the insult ‘dam muean ega’ which roughly equate to “black as a raven.”
Namwhan, a 27-year-old Thai woman, explains that she refuses to go swimming for fear that her skin would go darker. Besides that, she also uses skin-whitening product such as face serum and whitening body lotion to lighten her skin, according to Bangkok Coconuts.
“My sister used to tell me I looked dark, but I wanted to be white like a Korean girl because they look so healthy. In Thailand, many light-skinned actresses and actors are successful at their jobs.”
This ‘ideal’ whiteness in the skin is religiously followed and etched in the brain of many Thai women. This causes Thai women in general to consider pale skin more appealing.
There are many skin-whitening products found in stores. The common products are found in regulated department stores, but there are also multiple other illegal products that are being sold on markets, some are found to contain dangerous substance such as mercury and hydroquinone. Hydroquinone have been studied extensively and it has been proven to be harmful at times.
According to Lisa Bickenstaffe, spokesperson of British Skin Foundation:
“Hydroquinone can cause intense irritation of the skin and leave the user with uneven bleaching and a condition called cutaneous ochronosis, which is a bluish-black discoloration of the skin.”
Source: Chiang Mai Citylife
However, despite all the obsession regarding white-skin and the stereotype that comes with it, Thai society has been progressively developing acceptance of natural skin color in the past years.
The winner of 2014’s Miss Thailand World contest, Nonthawan “Maeya” Thongleng, who possess a tan skin, inspired many woman who do not have white skin to embrace their own natural beauty, and steadily changing the mindset of the society.
Obsession for vanity is dangerous, especially when it drives people to purchase counterfeit goods instead of certified ones to ‘save’ money.