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What's Your Take on Whitening Products?

What's Your Take on Whitening Products?

Whitening products are a fast-growing segment of the beauty industry in Asia, the Middle East and Africa; for many people, having light, porcelain-like skin is considered ideal. While I understand that every culture has different concepts of beauty, it saddens me to think about the number of women who inevitably think something's wrong with their dark skin. It's easy to understand why Sweetstrawberry, who lives in Korea, feels so frustrated by the narrow ideals she encounters at school.

As globalization spreads, this issue isn't likely to go away anytime soon. While some of the controversy can be attributed to cultural differences—after all, Caucasian people get spray-on tans!—you can't argue with the potential danger of certain whitening products. Those that contain hydroquinone and other mercury-based products can lead to skin blisters and burns (and, ironically, darkening). In some cases, they can lead to nerve damage and even death.

Of course, not all whitening products are worrisome. Some aren't terribly far from what you'd find in your average American Walgreens; they're just sold under a different name. These products are safe because they're not about bleaching the skin; instead, they aim to even out the complexion and protect against age spots. Yet much of the marketing language implies that dark skin is a disorder that needs to be cured. An ad for Olay White Radiance, for instance, "fights the five signs of skin darkening." Pond's just launched a White Beauty Detox product line in India last month. And then there's a Fair & Lovely commercial, whose heroine shows that without the whitening cream, she'd be a jobless, dateless loser. To see it, read more

So, putting aside the hilarity of that swarthy TV producer for a moment, what do you think about whitening products? Are they just filling a market demand along the lines of self-tanner for Caucasians, or are they creating a "solution" for a problem that doesn't exist?

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