If you think tanning of the skin going overboard (and yes, if you count in the pumpkin or carrot orange shade straight from a bottle of tanning lotion) is something you commonly find in real life and the media, what about if it is the opposite? If you have no idea what I mean, it is skin whitening. Or should I say a case of a whiter shade of pale taken to extreme.
Last time I talked about extreme tanning in my previous blog, Loving the skin one’s in Part 1: When tanning goes overboard, and today I want to tackle the issue of skin whitening gone overboard. While tanned skin is seen as a symbol of health, being fashionable (I mean ‘A-list’ fashionable) and glamourous in many modern societies, it is perceived negatively as low class or unattractive in some parts of of the world such as Asia where porcelain-like (or ethereal-like, take your pick) fair skin is highly-prized as a sign of beauty.
Skin whitening is a popular ‘beauty’ ritual among non-Western women for many years and today it is big business in the Asian beauty industry (if you also include the South East Asian market in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand). Asian women are not the only ones lightening and whitening themselves, even some women of African descent are doing the same. Why are they doing it? It is not just because they want to fulfill the beauty ideal that have been portrayed in art, texts and advertisements that are airbrushed but also to meet their societies’ pressure which pride so much on fair skin just like what was mentioned briefly in this online article. That is not all, fair skin in South Asia is seen as an eligibility for marriage (What?!!) just like what is stated in the Telegraph UK article. If you think, only women do skin whitening, some men do it too and here is an example of a skin lightening advertisement like this Fair and Handsome (something like a male version of Fair and Lovely)advertisement for men that comes all the way from India. and this one as well.
It is not just with skin lightening creams that you find in the beauty section of a departmental store but also they can come in (wait for it…) bleaching creams which most are usually illegal and deadly to human health (sorry to say it but it is all true like what is featured in this article and Youtube clip). Besides those bleaching creams, some people would turn to skin lightening pills, injections, steroids (gasp!), mercury-laden creams or soaps (Oh my goodness!) and laser treatments to get the pale skin they vied for so badly.
I am not here to pass any judgment or whatsoever, however, I want to ask these questions: Is it all worth it at the expense of health, time and money just to get fair skin only to end up ruining one’s own skin? Take a look at an example of the side effects of skin bleaching in this clip and this IRIN Asia article. Does having fair skin mean having happiness and everything in life ranging from getting compliments by strangers in town to ending up with a boyfriend? With the whole obsession towards attaining the perfect whiter shade of pale, it is nothing but a let down to individuals, especially females, who happen to have naturally tan or golden skin. It is like saying to them that having naturally tan, dark or golden skin does not make them as lovely and beautiful as their fair-skinned counterparts. I may get shot for saying this (but I have to say it) perhaps someone should come forward and make a documentary about the ugly and dangerous side of skin lightening and the obsession towards it among non-Westerners ala BBC’s The Truth about Tanning style.
Lastly, I want to say again that we are all born with one skin to last us a lifetime and we should never take it for granted until it is too late for regrets. What says you about this issue? All comments are welcomed.