My mother's skincare routine also cycled in something called Likas Papaya Skin Lightening Soap — an orange soap marketed toward those who wanted lighter skin — and astringents. Her drive to maintain her alabaster skin had to do with the beauty standards that she was exposed to in our culture. Although I don't actively try to make myself look lighter, I do recognize the benefits of exfoliating. It leaves my skin looking radiant and healthy. I am careful to not overdo it.
I use a mix of gentle chemical exfoliators and lightly scrub my body with exfoliating mitts (like these Korean Exfoliating Bath Washcloth ($4)) the way my mother did.