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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,

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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pinaychic5 pinaychic5 9 years
oh my, there's a lot in the being *gluthatione* (i still have to try this one out) i'm currently using missha's illuminating products which have whitening stuff in it (including lightening dark spots) & AHA. :)
terry_g terry_g 10 years
Why be happy with something you can change? I agree with the post-modernist notions of individual beauty, but it also means you are your own critic. If you don't like it and you can do something about it, then go ahead. I for one is a media studies student, and I know all the deception of media. But then again, after all the "political" and intelligent discourse is said and done. It's a personal choice. I like my skin lighter, and I think in general, women with lighter complexion are better looking.
sunghee sunghee 10 years
YES, skin whitening may have not first been the result of wanting to look Caucasian (at least regarding East Asians), but can you REALLY state that double eye lid surgery or blethroplasty isn't the result of wanting to look Caucasian? Sure, many Asians DO have double eye-lids and whatnot, but the majority happen to be the southeast Asians who also happen to be darker skinned. East Asians (well, less regarding the Japanese) are the ones with the lighter skin on average and also the ones with the single eyelids: only 25% of Koreans have double eyelids, whereas roughly half of people of Chinese descent have double eyelids. If this is not the result of Asians following the Western ideal, then what is it? Because I don't see any East Asians attempting to go out and tan themselves out in the sun like a few of my Asian-American friends here are. Not to mention you have Asians going for rhinoplasty to change their relatively flat noses into sharp, chiseled ones. Or the much now sought after eyebrow lift to reduce that fuller, rounder face into a more angular, oval one. Or of course the obsession with decking out monstrously tall 6-8" BOOTS (not even heels) on every single female celebrity to make them appear 10 feet tall. Sure, tall and relatively thin is in everywhere, but it's compounded there to the point where you have extremely gangly stick-like idol stars like Namie Amuro and Boa (whom are very short) lose even more weight: not just to be thin, but to also appear taller. Even if that means you weight 80 lbs. Same goes for Hong Kong "lollipop beauties". However, I'm going to talk about what I know best: South Korea. Korea is the center of the Asian ideal nowadays yet the celebrities are very Western. Virtually all of them look Eurasian to the point they could easily pass for white. Some of my Latina and Afro-American friends indeed say they DO look white! Colored hair like no tomorrow as well as the obsession over blue/green/hazel contacts. If I can remember, one popular male star was glamorized because he naturally had light brown/hazel eyes and western features in general on some popular Korean television show. As much as I hate to admit it, plastic surgery is so common in Korea it's plain disturbing. It may be popular here as well as in other countries, but I don't think it can even compare, as plastic surgery is as common as getting a haircut. And I know people say they know it, but until you go there, you'll really know what I mean. You really can't imagine until you go there. And I thought Hollywood was bad. Also I know there are a lot of fellow Asian-Americans here denying the fact, but race is certainly the root of the skin whitening situation (read: BOOM) now. Asia has been dominated by the west before too, thus the problem has escalated. But people don't seem to understand that too much usage of it period will ruin your skin. Even the so-called 'safe' ones as all of them still contain various amounts of the same bad tannin compounds that will essentially eat away your face. Now, of course here in the US, tanning is in. And of course it's dangerous as well. But there are some who are just wanting a natural tan from playing out in the sun or something. Not everyone is looking to soak in tanning beds and die of skin cancer. In fact, none of my Caucasian friends are for dangerous tanning period. BUT, if you think about it, tanning more or less makes you look as if you have been doing something (rather just being idle all day), thus it is the ideal. The fun is out THERE, not INSIDE some air conditioned room studying. Let's face it, the youthful image of being proactive and outgoing is quite strongly correlated with this whole tanning craze. I mean, I know I'm generalizing in some instances here, but really now. Let's stop lying to one another. The skin whitening, drastic cosmetic's the globalization. Because if Asians (or any race for that matter) wanted to look like more or less like the ideal, they most likely would have the porcelain skin tone (or whatever was their ideal before being in contact with lighter foreigners), but as for the rest? Most likely not. Look at the East Asian art from that period...long BLACK hair, with the same relative facial features of small lips, flat noses, and almond eyes. Ask any Asian (not Asian American) and you know what they'll tell you when you ask them why they wanted to look whiter and have larger eyes? "To look more western". Not to look particularly Asian, but European. Yes, many may be in love with those Korean actresses and singers overseas and envy their looks, but the reason they like them is because they look European. To varying degrees they mirror the white ideal: after all the Chinese found Koreans to be ugly and unattractive compared to themselves back 50-60 years ago. At least, up until NOW. Nowadays, many news sites (namely Chinese, Japanese, etc.) literally exclaim (!) how Koreans are much more attractive. As if, Korea just suddenly started popping out glamorous Eurasian looking stars; many of whom don't resemble the grandparents of them born just two generations before them. It's a shame, really. And I don't mean to sound as if I'm jumping on anyone or anything, but I'm just keeping it real. The media portrayal sings a VERY different tune...especially in Korea.
high-d high-d 10 years
i like the color of my skin, and i dont have low self-esteem because of it, it's those ignorant ass girls that make comments to others like ew you're dark!! or im getting dark!! when they're skin isn't even dark at all ..that pisses me off and feel like decking in the face
gigiopolis gigiopolis 10 years
Royal_Red is COMPLETELY right. I mean, I'm sure the reasons for whitening are different from culture to culture, but I am POSITIVE that in China/Hong Kong, women aspire to be lighter because of the reasons Royal_Red has listed. NOTHING to do with race, AT ALL. This is, after all, coming from the country that calls caucasian people "white ghosts". And why would we want to look like ghosts? Honestly. Don't worry though, "white ghost" isn't used as an insult. It's a colloquial term, kind of like "white guy". However, I'm not as certain for the reasons for lightening in other cultures, and I'm happy that others have cleared it up for us. I never associated whitening with race even for a second before reading all the other comments.
turquoisepassion turquoisepassion 10 years
I used to hate the fact that I'm so tan (I'm Chinese, and they have this craze with fair skin in China too)... my mom would be like "don't buy that shirt.. it makes you look super dark-skinned" (aka. showing off the tan). Isn't it always the same? Curly-haired ppl buy straightening products, straight-haired gals get perms, dark-skinned people want to be lighter-skinner, fair-skinned ppl want to tan, Asian girls want bigger eyes...etc. etc. We're just not happy with ourselves in general. I just gave up and decided to rock the genes I've been given :-)
lem0n lem0n 10 years
I would like to think that we should all just accept ourselves the way we were born but that's never going to happen in its entirety. It is just hard to draw the line about what we think is okay for people to decide to do to themselves in the name of beauty. Even among the replies here, we can't agree. While I do think it is sad that there can be some very serious side effects to these creams, that is true about many beauty innovations. Think about the potential side effects in acne medications, plastic surgery, some of those chemicals in our beauty products that might be cancerous, and many more. I knew a girl who had really bad acne so she took some strong medication to keep it under control. But she saw something on tv and commented to me that people should just be natural. I think she would not want to give up that acne medication she's taking but she did not realize that she was condemning others a little hastily. Also, I wanted to add that some of the replies have been correct about this whitening trend, that Asians have valued light skin for a long time. I believe this to be overwhelmingly the case. Like most cultures, historically they valued physical indications of wealth. Only the wealthy would have fair skin and meat on their bones because the poor couldn't afford that kind of lifestyle. It was not because they wanted to be Caucasian. Another thing that people point out is this eyelid surgery that Asians get. According to plastic surgeons who specialize in Asian eyelids, about half the Asian population has this double folded eyelid and that they don't believe that most of their patients who request this surgical procedure are doing it to look Caucasian. If you like to read more about this, there is a good article on called "Facial Plastic Surgery in Asian Patients." However, I am aware that there are some Asians who may want to look Caucasian. Some of them are probably not really consciously deciding that they want to look Caucasian but it would be better described as their admiration for some Caucasian celebrities or the media portrayal of Western culture. If they really wanted to look Caucasian, wouldn't they be following the Caucasian trend to value tanning?
allthingsgrow allthingsgrow 10 years
That's AWFUL!
SassAndBide SassAndBide 10 years
my cousin (from my mom's side )was born and raised in Nigeria, but she's of Asian/Spanish descent. shes very tan and i envy her for that..however she told me wen she was younger she wishes she was fair skinned so she could fit took her many years to embrace her natural skin tone. i think its a matter of preference but at the same time also self acceptance. who am i to tell people they can't tan or whiten? cousin has her own daughter now, and shes really cute she's 3 yrs old. she's like Puerto Rican (father's side) and of course Asian/Spanish from my cousin's im just rambling now..i guess my point is, we can argue here for hours but we cant stop certain people from doing what they want to their skin - after all, its THEIR skin. :)
Madinat Madinat 10 years
it has a LOT to do with race, but it depends on your ethnicity, like the chinese girl stated, asians have been lightening since god knows how long, but are you HONESTLY saying AFRICANS are lightening their skin to "not look tan" are you kidding??!! we're talking about a WORLDWIDE phenomenon, NOT just asia. i know that's your area of expertise/experience, and the article itself mentions korea, but there are different reasons for doing things, in your case not race, in my case, for DAMN sure. don't try to generalize! that's the same way all muslims got labeled as being terrorists. i'm constantly telling people that there are black muslims in africa!! and yea, people are STILL surprised about that one, *sheesh*
Royal_Red Royal_Red 10 years
I mean, this absolutely has NOTHING / ZERO to do with race. Hey, do you white people remeber queen Elizabeth's signature makeup look was powdered white face, in which the powder was poisonous? Hence, pale skin was once deemed beautiful by caucasians back then! The reason why Asians loathe dark skin is the lifestyle that's associated with it. Speaking of asian, up to 80% are Chinese, and in China, up to 80% of the human populations are farmers. Farmers are the low class society there, they have to get out in the sun everyday to make very little money. As a result, tan equals farming/labor equals though female equals poor equals ugly. So the verdict? China/Asia is still third world countries, their economy has to change, thus lifestyle will change, and finally the notion of beauty will eventually differ. BY the way, I am Chinese myself, I enjoying running marathons and biking outdoors, I am as tan as hell with olive skintone. My dad always tease my mom for having dark skin, up until just last night; my mom always deride me for getting tanned by doing outdoor activities. My dad gets paranoid when he sees me using self tanners to even out my tan lines. I use whitening products every other night on my face to get rid of acne scars. I think it all comes down to how you feel and what you consider as beautiful and your confidence in yourself. If you love yourself enough, nothing will distract you, if the outside world does not appeal to you, lock yourself up in the world of your own, and you will certainly be happy just like me.
designergirl designergirl 10 years
I once read an article, I am not purpoting to be an expert or even well-informed on this topic, that said that obsession with whitening in Asia is comparable to our obsession with anti-aging in Western Europe and North America. That being said, while it would be great for everyone to accept themselves as beautiful, there have always been standards of beauty, for example fat, high foreheads, and long neck have all been portrayed as beautiful in different cultures. I think that you cannot judge another culture on their practices or standards of beauty. They will always be unfair to some group; rarity is always prized. I don't claim to know whether whitening is a direct result of imperialistic rule. As an art history minor, I do know that all Asian and Middle Eastern paintings and ink drawings I have seen have always portrayed the hero and heroines as being extremely pale. In addition, all advertising is meant to make us feel poorly about ourselves. If we felt good about being purely natural, we wouldn't buy anything. It is a sad fact of the world that we are taught that what we buy actually says something about true selves.
Madinat Madinat 10 years least the word is FINALLY getting out there, women have been bleaching their skin in africa, india, asia, the middle east, etc. for DECADES, if not CENTURIES (for those farther east) african bleaching DEFINITELY is a DIRECT result of imperialistic rule, *sigh*
lula29 lula29 10 years
Pintsized, There are books out there and articles that have studied the racist notion used to market these products. Tons of them actually. The products in and of themselves aren't bad, however, the notion that a person can use them to look Caucasian or should use them to look Caucasian is. Again, tanning does not market to the fair skinned that they should tan or if they tan they can be like Black or dark skinned people so it's not the same. If the marketing of whitining products was changed then tanning and the use of these products would be equal.
ditorres ditorres 10 years
I think tdamji is right in equating pale skin with an interpretation of socioeconomic status. If you're a laborer, you may have to work in the sun alot thereby gettin darker. I think that is why some people idealize a fair complexion. I don't. I like it when my skin is tan and when it is pale. I much prefer it when it is even. I like being in the sun and I like doing my own work. With that said, I don't have a problem with whitening products. I do have a problem with marketing one look at the expense of another. And I do think it is wrong to look at someone's superficial attributes and make judgements about that person without getting to know that person. The crux of the matter here is that we have the power to change public opinion. If you feel good about your complexion and about other people's natural complexion then maybe our social consciousness will reflect that.
theboyslover theboyslover 10 years
it pisses me off that they're conditioning these people to hate themselves. Skin complexion is nothing you can change. You can get darker in the summer, and lighter in the winter but you we born and will die your natural complexion. If I was that insecure with my complexion I'd probably be caught up in all this hype and hate myself too over something I cannot change. The whole thing is sickening and sad and very unfortunate. Anybody who supports this idea of "beauty" has serious issues.
Community-Manager Community-Manager 10 years
Hey Everyone, Clearly this is a controversial topic but please be respectful of all users' opinions. If you have any problems, please feel free to report the comments. thanks team
vienvien vienvien 10 years
And by the way, did anyone of us here read the introductin of this post--that it was a certain Sweetstrawbery from Korea who suffers this ordeal. Inevitably, it also occurs in Korea. And since I was asked to do my research, isn't my firsthand experience reliable enough or some proofs are neeeded further ? I can provide links to articles about this whitening craze. Although not necessary, but since someone challenged me, I will provide. It really is upsetting to me if we challenge each other to explain and prove our comments. Aren't we suppose to foster and encourage lively, informative and cordial discussion here? Tell me if I'm in the wrong position to remind us , including myself about this.
vienvien vienvien 10 years
Bluesmile --again---Here are some links about this "whitening craze in Asia" . You asked me to do myu research and these articles prove that I'm right/. Besides, why would these skincare manuactures launch products exclusively for Asia alone if there's no market for it? Just ask me for some more links or Google them yourself or go to the library.
vienvien vienvien 10 years
Bluesmile---I don't think it's right for anyone of us here to pinpoint who's wrong. I would appreciate if everyone of us should take precautions in "attacking" other's views or opinions. How could you say I'm wrong ? And even if I am, do you have to say here that I'm wrong? Look, I wouldn't open up my mouth in this topic if I don't know what I'm saying. I hope all of us here should be aware of who are we pointing at to be wrong.
vienvien vienvien 10 years
Bluesmile----I don't think I'm wrong. I'd been to Malaysia and Japan and it's still the same thing. I just couldn't say how disturbing it's there because I bnever had the "real experience" to interact w/ people who fall into this obsession or had the "empirical " conclusion that it's an obsession but I saw how rampant is the proliferation of marketing and advertising whitening products there. So if you've got that degree of marketing environment there, you can further conclude girls are psyched, pressured and tried to be lured to believe that "whiter is prettier". I only said in the Philippines because that's where my first-hand experience is. But I cannot dismiss also this fact that Japan and Malaysia have this obsession. The thing is I just don't like to mention it since I don't have any "subsantial proofs" other than my visits to those countries. Read some articles about them . Google about this whitening craze and probably you'll say I'm not wrong. Because I'm not wrong. For how else would I say something factual in here if I'm wrong?
theboyslover theboyslover 10 years
Uh Ditto that, and to whoever mentioned a "silly eye crease surgery" its their choice isnt it? Its not as if there arent Asian who DONT have the crease. Having a crease does not make not Asian, there are plenty who have them. Among them, ME. ah, yes..that was me. it IS silly in my opinion. I know some asians have the "natural eye crease" I have asian friends who were born with it. but the ones who don't feel they are so ugly without it and it's disturbing to me especially since i think theres nothing wrong with them. ever think that maybe all these ideals of beauty could be destroying some people? a 21 year old asian girl severely depressed because she doesn't have a stupid stupid eye crease. doesn't smile in pictures so she wouldn't look "too asain" and forget wearing bangs. YES this is a culture problem to me!! just like it's a problem when indian, hispanic and black women feel they need to be lighter, and white women considered 'pale' if they aren't tanned. Yes it's "their choice" but it's such a messed up thing.
shoppingprincess shoppingprincess 10 years
No-one seems happy with their skin tone these days, pale people want a tan and darker skinned people want to lighten. I have skin that tans quite easily in the sun but is pale without a tan. I like having a tan which some people hate as it makes my skin look as if it's glowing and healthy but in the winter I don't like looking pasty which some people would love. Just accept youselves for who you are ladies :D
ayumi ayumi 10 years
I have been struggling with the white skin ideal. Growing up as an Asian-American I was very dark skinned and my family looked down on that. So 2 years ago I started slathering on sunscreen, wearing sunglasses and hats, and trying to avoid the sun as much as possible. It's kind of taken over my life...but it is my decision. I agree that women want what they don't have. Some people want my year-round tanned skin, but I want that fair-skinned look. It's all about preference. I have used some whitening products. But I always do my research and try not to overdo it. These days it's all about protection and prevention.
beingtazim beingtazim 10 years
in victorian england and other times it was considered high class to have white skin ( i mean to actually look very white, rather than "merely" caucasian) because it meant you didn't have to go out of the house and work outside. in the case of the fair and lovely ad and in india generally - i don't know for sure if this concept was around prior to british colonization. who knows? when i visited india i felt, for once like i mattered - i noticed more people got out of my way on the sidewalk and tried to serve me in shops. this is totally different from how i am treated in north america - well, here in new zealand too. i guess i should mention that my skin is fair compared to others in India. Disturbing, but true that skin color makes such a difference still. i hate that people are judged by their lightness and darkness even when they are from the same country and culture! so sad...
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