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  • dustyswan 1:32 am on June 17, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anti skin bleaching indonesia, , , , , , , , , , , gerakan anti pemutih kulit indonesia, gerakan anti skin whitening indonesia, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , tetap cantik tanpa pemutih, , , Young Indonesians struggle to resist the power of the skin whitening industry   

    Young Indonesians struggle to resist the power of the skin whitening industry 

    Tessa Toumbourou

    White faces dominate the supermarket shelves
    Tessa Toumbourou

    Faces so white they are nearly transparent stare vacantly from the sides of hundreds of varieties of creams, lotions, soaps, scrubs and bleaches in supermarket beauty aisles across Indonesia. Those same faces stare out from advertisements in magazines, on billboards, on the sides of buses and on television – all proclaiming the benefits of lighter coloured skin.

    Promotions for skin whitening products are targeted squarely at Indonesia’s urban aspirational classes. Young university women represent a key market segment. Advertisements portray the kinds of lives they aspire to and free samples are handed out at universities. Many university-aged women believe that regular use of skin whitening products makes them more attractive. But not all are enthusiastic. Some women are concerned about potentially damaging side effects of the products themselves. Many more reject the industry’s message that women can’t succeed in their careers or their love lives without altering their physical image.

    Mixed motivations

    The skin whitening phenomenon in Indonesia is part of a billion dollar Asia-wide industry that pressures women to respond to the siren call of white skin. In Indonesia, pale skin is promoted as a key opportunity enhancer – a social indicator of status, power, wealth, and most emphatically, beauty. The message is clear. Dark skin is inferior and somehow dirty, ugly, or even unhealthy. As one university student commented, ‘Beauty for Indonesian women is defined as a woman whose skin in white.’

    When asked to define the consumer market for skin whitening, university students I spoke to described the majority of users as teenagers and young women aged between 15 and 25. Laughing, a pair of English language students explained that skin whitening products are used by teenage girls to attract boys’ attention. ‘They do it so they have brighter looking faces, like in advertisements of pretty teenagers and women who use skin whitening.’ Students also mentioned the growing use of skin whitening by older women as a form of anti-aging therapy.

    Many university-aged women believe that regular use of skin whitening products makes them more attractive.

    There are many other reasons why young women choose to use skin whitening products. Some students put it down to personality. But the push for whiteness is also structural. Many women pointed to pressures in the job market, and the prospect of appearing more attractive to prospective partners. Others blamed the growing influence of western culture for pressuring people to become white. One student suggested that the push to use whitening products was a form of cultural cringe, which ‘reduces the value of our own skin’. This was echoed by another student who observed that ‘Our own community does not consider our own culture to be important, so we think the same of ourselves.’

    A dangerous habit

    Even those young people who embrace skin whitening have concerns about its long-term effects. Most skin whitening products contain mercury or hydroquinone, two seriously damaging chemicals. Mercury, a common ingredient in skin whitening creams in Asia, strips the skin of its natural pigment. It is also a poison known to cause liver and kidney damage, which can also lead to neurological disorders. Hydroquinone, a chemical used in photo processing, has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals. Ironically, both chemicals also react with ultra-violet rays and re-oxidise, leading to more skin-darkening pigmentation and premature aging. More of the product is then needed to alter the response, which changes the skin’s natural structure and inhibits the production of melatonin, making the skin more susceptible to skin cancer.

    One of the hundreds of skin-whitening products on sale in

    Tessa Toumbourou

    Some young women are acutely aware of the risks and side-effects of skin whitening products. According to one sceptical student, the skin whitening process is on the whole ineffective. ‘I think it doesn’t work to make you white, it’s just lies. But if whiteness results, it is because of the mercury or other dangerous substances.’ Many students also discussed their concern for the side- or after- effects of skin whitening products, mentioning their concern for flecking, reddening and the possibility of faster aging and cancer. Some also mentioned a potentially addictive pattern of skin whitening product use – the product makes the skin more sensitive to the sun and therefore more likely to darken, actually increasing the need for more whitening.

    Although not everyone is as conversant of the dangers involved in skin whitening, most are at least partially aware of the risks. Some young women are convinced that it is still worthwhile, but many others are not. As one woman observed wryly, ‘It depends on the person, if they consider their appearance to be number one, the most important.’

    Skin whitening sceptics

    Despite pressures to engage in skin whitening reiterated in media and advertising, the majority of Indonesian students I interviewed were sceptical about claims that lighter skin is necessarily better, more attractive, or guarantees success. As one woman observed, ‘Although appearance does have a place, I think that when we are ourselves, appearance is not as important.’

    Some students rejected outright the notion that whiteness defines beauty, arguing that white skin simply looks unhealthy. Others claimed that the relationship between success and appearance was limited to particular fields of work where success is dependent on aesthetic appearance, such as the film and music industry, or product marketing. In other jobs, they argue, ‘Success is earned through hard work.’

    Some students rejected outright the notion that whiteness defines beauty.

    Many of these young women believe that deep down, a heavy reliance on skin whitening products actually reflects a lack of self-confidence. In the words of one undergraduate, ‘Maybe for people who don’t believe in themselves their appearance is their own measure of self.’

    Many of these educated women were certainly critical of the commercial pressures to lighten skin, asserting that a strong sense of self can overcome the need to rely on aesthetic appearance. This comes down to accepting and embracing one’s own self, whatever one’s skin tone, as natural and true. As one student commented, with a shrug, ‘It is better to just keep the colour you have…if your skin is yellow, leave it yellow.’     ii

    Tessa Toumbourou (tdtou1@student.monash.edu.au) is an Arts graduate with a politics major. She recently completed a Diploma of Indonesian Language in-country at Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta, and will continue living in Yogya on a Darmasiswa scholarship studying at Indonesian College of Arts (ISI).

    • Lyn 1:56 pm on July 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Many indonesian store here in hongkong still selling natural 99 vit.e plus.is this safe to use?as I have read that it have warning not to use,so why this product stil exist when it is harmful 2 d body?

  • dustyswan 6:36 am on June 9, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , cultural racism, , Dying to be whiter: The black women who risk their lives for lighter skin, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , skin whitening phenomenon in black woman, , tetap cantik tanpa pemutih,   

    Dying to be whiter: The black women who risk their lives for lighter skin 


    Dream girl: Singer Beyonce

    On sale in the high street in Harlesden, North-West , yesterday was a face cream called Maxi White.

    “Could there be a less subtle name for a product aimed at black and Asian women desperate to lighten the colour of their skin? Indeed, those who purchase the £4.79 gel are guaranteed results almost overnight.

    “It worked quite well to start with,” said one customer. “But as I carried on using it, my skin became thin and dehydrated. If I moved my mouth, my whole skin moved, too. My forehead looked like a crinkled up piece of paper it was so cracked.

    “Then, ugly blotches which developed into boils and ulcers started appearing on my face. I was a complete mess.”

    The reason can be found in the list of ingredients on the back of the Maxi White packet; one is called hydroquinone – which is as nasty as it sounds; the biological equivalent, in fact, of paint stripper.

    It not only removes the top layer of skin, which initially results in a “brighter face”, but also the body’s natural defence against infection and the sun, thus increasing the risk of skin cancer.

    If the chemical – which is used in certain industrial processes – enters your bloodstream, it can cause fatal liver and kidney damage. Other side effects include headaches, nausea, convulsions and permanent scarring.

    It is illegal to use hydroquinone in cosmetics.

    This month, a couple who made more than £1 million selling toxic skinlightening creams from two outlets in Peckham, South London, were ordered to pay costs and fines totalling £100,000.

    But a spokeswoman for the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) admitted: “No sooner do you shut one place down than another springs up.”

    Maxi White, and other banned brands containing harmful steroids, are available under – and over – the counter all across the country. A Mail investigation found them on sale from Brixton to Birmingham (one of the shops featured in our investigation was raided by Trading Standards officers yesterday).

    Behind such names as “Maxi White”, “Sure White”, “Fair & White” and “Skin White” is a multi-million-pound industry – and an untold story of exploitation and racism within the black community itself.

    It’s a taboo subject, but a cruel racial hierarchy still exists in Britain where the lighter-skinned Jamaican, for example, is “superior” to the darker skinned Nigerian; where light brown is preferable to dark brown. Dark skin means failure; light skin is beautiful and equates to success.

    One young woman we spoke to told how she decided to have her skin bleached after being teased and bullied at school (she was called “blackie” by paler-skinned Jamaican girls). There are reports that some parents are even “bleaching” their children

    It is an attitude all too familiar to Sherry Dixon, editor-at-large of Pride, the lifestyle magazine for the British black community, and reinforced by the complaints that flood in from female readers whenever a woman with strong African features – such as dark hair, broad nose, and tightly curled hair – appears on the cover.

    “It’s cultural racism, or shade-ism as I call it,” she says.

    The most photographed – and admired – black women ( Beyonce, Halle Berry, Naomi Campbell, Iman) are all Westernised, of course, whether by their fairer skin or European features.

    The legacy of such stereotyping can be found in any shop or market stall specialising in black hair and skin products; “Black is Beautiful” was the old slogan, but shelves are bulging with creams and lotions promising a “brighter face”.

    Not all are harmful; nevertheless they promote the image – intentionally or otherwise – that blackness is something to be ashamed of, and whiteness revered.

    Southwark Trading Standards officers, who were involved in the Peckham prosecution, have a list of nearly 100 banned cosmetics seized from outlets in the borough over the past few years, including some that contained poisonous mercuric iodide, which can cause organ failure, vomiting and depression.

    The New Nation newspaper has carried out its own investigation into the scandal. Among the shops it found selling dangerous concoctions was Mona Cosmetics in Harlesden, where reporter Lorraine King purchased Maxi White (Strong Formula).

    This week, Miss King went to Brixton for the Mail. There, she was able to buy Mic Medicated Skin Litener Cream (“Maximum Strength”) which is on the trading standards banned list. Like Maxi White, it contains potentially deadly hydroquinone, and was on sale at the Afro Beauty Shop in Electric Avenue for 99p.

    Trading standards officials from Lambeth Council, acting on a tip-off from the Mail, arrived to carry out a search of the premises yesterday.

    Owners Mohammed Latif, 48, and his brother Wasim Hussain, 28, initially denied selling any of the creams.

    Boxes of Mic skin whitener were later confiscated; the brothers were cautioned and could be prosecuted.

    In another part of the country, at Beauty Queen in Soho Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, there are aisles brimming with “exotic” products.

    But when a Mail reporter asked for a “stronger” lightening cream (a universally understood euphemism for illegal bleaching creams) the man behind the counter produced a tube of cream stashed in a fuse box in the corner of the store. It cost £1.99 and was called Movate. One of its active ingredients is the steroid known as clobetasol propionate.

    The compound is not banned in this country but such is its potency that it can only be used as a licensed prescription drug to treat extreme skin conditions. Movate was also sold at nearby MJ News.

    Electric Avenue in Brixton or Rye Lane in Peckham and Soho Road in Handsworth are the last links in a criminal chain which begins thousands of miles away in Africa or the Middle East, where such lightening products are freely available.

    They are either smuggled into Britain in hand luggage or hidden in freight. Two of the biggest ever hauls, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, were discovered at Gatwick airport in 2005.

    More than 46,000 tubes were found in cargo from Lagos in Nigeria, labelled “body cream”, destined for a warehouse in North London. Shortly afterwards, customs seized thousands of products containing hydroquinone from West Africa, marked “foodstuffs.”

    Some unscrupulous traders travel abroad to obtain the ingredients – including hydroquinone – themselves.

    “They mix these drugs together in a bowl in the back of their shop then sell them in plain jars when customers ask for something “stronger” than the products on display,” says Sara Coakley of the MHRA.

    “We have had reports of parents giving these creams to their children, which is very worrying because children have weaker immune systems and these creams can be fatal.”

    It is almost impossible to believe, given the widespread publicity such products have attracted, that the people who peddle this poisonous rubbish, if not customers themselves, can be unaware of the dangers.

    Trading Standards officials in Southwark have flooded the borough with leaflets highlighting the dangers and the consequences of breaking the law, which can result in a six-month prison sentence.

    The leaflet asks: “Sale of illegal products -IS IT WORTH IT?”

    The answer can be found in a treelined avenue in Sydenham, South-East London, where Yinka and Michael Oluyemi live in an £800,000 six-bedroom mock tudor house with wooden floors and Persian rugs. Yesterday, a BMW and Mercedes were parked on the drive.

    Yinka, 46, and her husband Michael, 49 – who ran Yinka Bodyline and Beauty Express in Peckham – evidently found handsome rewards from the skin-lightening business. This week, however, they were given suspended prison sentences after admitting ten charges of flouting medical and safety rules.

    The Oluyemis are just the latest people to be prosecuted for selling banned cosmetic potions.

    In 2006, another “cosmetics” company, Ace Afro Hair And Beauty, which has a store in Brixton, was fined £50,000, for similar offences. Hassan Akhtar, 49, who drives a Mercedes, runs the business – which has a £ 1million turnover – with his wife Nasira, 46, and their son Mubashir, 25. The family live in a £400,000 house in South-West London.

    “These creams cost peanuts in Africa – a few pence maybe – and then sell for up to £5 here,” says Ray Bouch, senior Trading Standards officer for Lambeth. “The mark-up is huge.”

    How many black women use such creams? It is impossible to say, but clearly many do. “I first started using them because I had spots and I thought they would help,” said Marilyn, a hairdresser in her 20s.

    Her acne did indeed clear up. But Marilyn continued using these dangerous cosmetics for another two years because “people began asking me why I looked so ‘bright and pretty?’

    “I remember using one that burns when you put it on. I would have to sit down and fan myself. Then I watched a programme about skin bleaching in Africa. It was terrible. It showed people with serious skin deformities and tumours. I knew I had to stop. I’d just had a baby and I didn’t want him coming into contact with the chemicals on my face.

    “I have stopped bleaching my skin but there are so many girls I know who are still doing it. In the dance hall scene, if you don’t bleach your skin you’re not cool. I see some girls with brown faces who still have black hands – it’s horrible.

    “But it’s very addictive,” she admits. “I have a relative who bleaches her entire body. She goes down to Brixton market and buys massive tubs. Her whole body is light except for her knuckles, elbows, knees and toes. She looks ridiculous.

    “When I stopped using these creams, my face became dark again. I don’t care because I’m lucky and have not suffered permanent damage.”

    The peer – and indeed cultural – pressure which would persuade someone to apply a cream which contains hydroquinone or powerful steroids is graphically illustrated by the case of Melissa Barnet. Melissa, who is in her late 20s, is the daughter of a Nigerian nurse and businessman from North London. She began using bleaching creams in 2000 after being bullied at school.

    “Throughout my childhood it just wasn’t ‘cool’ to be African or darkskinned, and every day when I walked through the gates of my all-girls secondary school I was reminded of this cruel racial hierarchy,” she says.

    “Being a lighter-skinned Jamaican made you superior to anyone darker or African.

    “There were nights when I would sit in the bath chanting ‘I hate myself’ while frantically scrubbing my skin with soap. Other times I would scribble notes to myself saying dreadful things like: ‘Why are you so ugly?’ or ‘Why do you have to be so black?’

    “Nor did it help that all the best-looking black boys would only date a girl if they were light-skinned, and vice versa. I lost count of the times I heard the attractive Jamaican girls dismiss the idea of going out with a dark-skinned African boy because he was considered beneath them. Statements such as ‘he’s a monkey’, ‘far too black’ and ‘ugly’ were commonplace.”

    Eventually, Melissa experimented with the most potent bleaching soap containing hydroquinone in a bid to make herself more “beautiful”. Her skin became noticeably lighter and for the first time in her life she felt “confident and attractive”.

    It didn’t last long. Within six months, she began to suffer the inevitable side-effects – unsightly dark patches appeared on her face and she realised she had to stop. Fortunately, her skin recovered, though some scars were still visible on her cheeks months later.

    Like Marilyn, the hairdresser who began using skin-lightening creams, Melissa, a former office worker, was lucky. Some of the women who turn up at dermatologist Sujata Jolly’s clinic in Maidenhead are not.

    “One patient was in a very bad way,” she recalls. “Her skin was dark, lumpy and blotchy and had cracked open. The blood vessels had ruptured and you could see blood through the cracks.”

    Could there be a more chilling example of the dangers of products like Maxi White?

    The cultural racism which resulted in that poor woman being treated by Sujata Jolly is reinforced by companies such as Elizabeth Arden on the Indian sub-continent. The face of the firm’s “whitening skincare” range is Catherine Zeta-Jones.

    The creams are harmless but the message, you might agree, is the same. “Women everywhere want radiant, translucent skin.”

    Another advert, by British manufacturing giant Unilever, which markets several whitening products in India, shows a young Indian woman dreaming of being famous, but her skin is too brown.

    One day her sister hands her a tube of Fair And Lovely skin cream. Then the advert flashes forward and she is wearing high heels and her hair is curled. Most important, her complexion has changed dramatically; she is pale and has landed her dream job.

    But dreams don’t always come true – as many black women have discovered after buying a tube of Maxi White on the streets of Harlesden and Handsworth.(dailymail.co.uk)

  • dustyswan 8:36 am on May 27, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Skin Bleaching Thrives Despite Ugandan Government Ban on Dangerous Cosmetics, , , , , , , , , tetap cantik tanpa pemutih, ,   

    Skin Bleaching Thrives Despite Ugandan Government Ban on Dangerous Cosmetics 

    Halimah Abdallah Kisule
    by Halima Abdallah Kisule

    • Uganda

    Scores of Ugandans continue to bleach their skin despite a government ban on the sale of several lotions, creams, gels and soaps which are largely used to whiten, even and tone the skin.

    In extreme cases of skin bleaching, the skin can become multi-colored and marred with inflammation or scarring. Photograph courtesy of Halimah Abdallah Kisule.

    Due to ineffective enforcement of the ban, these dangerous cosmetics are easily accessible anywhere in Uganda; whether sold over the counter, along the roadside or by hawkers, vendors move the skin lighteners easily due to high demand. Such is the popularity that skin-whitening products have gained today in Uganda.Medically, skin whitening (or bleaching) products are used for treating pigmentation disorders like freckles, pregnancy marks, blotchy uneven skin tone, patches of brown to gray skin and age spots. Skin pigmentation occurs because the body either produces too much or too little melanin, the pigment responsible for creating the color of our eyes, skin and hair. It also provides crucial protection against the sun’s rays by absorbing ultra-violet light. Doctors say that those with darker skin are less susceptible to sunburn and the overall effects of sun damage.

    According to dermatologists, skin bleaching can be achieved through a combination of treatments that reduce or block some amount of the body’s melanin production. Usually in the form of topical lotions, gels, pills and creams, these products contain melanin-inhibiting ingredients along with sunscreen. These treatments also contain amounts of hydroquinone, or mercury.

    However, other cosmetics companies use natural ingredients to make melanin-inhibiting products. Extracted from plant leaves like the berry family, shrubs and pears, their naturally occurring arbutin leads to bleaching.

    A young woman who has been bleaching, gets her hair plaited – her face and chest are a different color than her arms, hands and legs. Photograph courtesy of Halimah Abdallah Kisule.

    In Uganda, the practice of skin bleaching is common among adults with dark skin, especially women, but men also do it with little regard for the dangers posed to their bodies. Some people even use the products for anal bleaching to reduce naturally darker pigmentation of the genital and perineal area.Consumers of bleaching cosmetics claim that they want to enhance their beauty. One woman who declined to be named, explains, “One has to look good, by having fair, lighter skin.”

    Unfortunately, her skin is now multi-colored from bleaching. She has red skin on her face, yellow on her arms and dark skin on her back. The skin on her knees, toes and finger joints failed to lighten and remain black.
    For this woman, the condition of her skin has only brought her shame; she now tries to cover most parts of her body in an attempt to conceal the damage done by the products she thought would enhance her beauty.

    Those in the medical profession explain that this condition occurs from allergic dermatitis or irritant dermatitis (abnormal, extensive and often local inflammation of the skin), both of which are common among people who have not previously used the bleaching cosmetics.

    “I have cases where people get severe skin burns. It happens when people change to something new which causes allergic dermatitis and irritant dermatitis,” says Dr Misaki Wayengera of Makerere University Medical School.

    He explains that the skin of the people using these bleaching products get inflamed, turns red, enlarges and begins to loose function as the cells fail to produce melanin.

    Wayengera says that bleaching can be achieved medically using low dosage hydroquinone, recommended at 2%. He advises that it should be used only in the areas of the skin that need to be lightened. He also advised consumers to always read the contents of cosmetics because those that bleach cause health problems like skin cancer, leukemia, thyroid disorders and delay or prevent the ability to diagnose leprosy. Mercury is the most toxic of these ingredients and leads to liver problems.

    Though the East African Custom Management Act of 2006 banned the import of all soaps containing mercury, products like Mekako soaps are readily available in the country having been smuggled in before being re-exported to neighboring Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.

    The young woman’s hands show how the bleaching does not lighten skin evenly. Photograph courtesy of Halimah Abdallah Kisule.

    “They are smuggled in jerricans disguised as water while others come in through ordinary containers but are declared as cosmetics, when [in reality] they are drugs that fall under the NDA mandate,” says Gyavira Musoke, Head of Imports Inspection at Uganda’s National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).UNBS says that Kenya is blaming Uganda for failing to stop the importation of this toxic cosmetic despite the existence of the law. This is just one of the 400 prohibited cosmetic ingredients (that are defined as drugs under the Uganda National Drug Authority (NDA) regulations) that are on the open market. Products containing hydroquinone are still for sale after traders asked the Ministry of Tourism to give them some time to sell off their stock.

    Ready markets for these highly valued cosmetics suggest that smuggling won’t stop any time soon, but demand alone does not explain why one would continue to use these dangerous products.

    “Such a person lacks self-esteem, has low self-efficacy and a perception that she or he looks ugly,” says Mr Robert Wandera, Coordinator of the Psychology Department at Makerere University. “It is common among women who are not educated,” he adds.

    Wandera’s colleague, Mr Calistas, says that it is very dangerous to have low self-esteem because severe cases can lead to suicide.

    He urges, “Do something positive to counter [your low self-esteem]. Take advantage of the good parts of your body or talents.”

    Prolonged use of bleaching cosmetics can indeed be disastrous both psychologically and physically. One lady who I encountered on the street declined to be named nor talk about her skin. Her dry, pale face showed no happiness. She had wrinkles too – not from old age, but from the effects of starting and then stopping the use of these cosmetics. I could easily read the disappointment in her face when I asked her to talk about her skin. Her response is a clear testimony to the negative effects of bleaching cosmetics and hint at the lengths some will go to for beauty. Her unhappiness is the other side of beauty that we rarely see, but one that can easily be avoided.

    About the Author
    Halimah Abdallah Kisule is a journalist in northern Uganda who, for the last seven years, has covered human rights, health, diplomacy, politics and education for numerous news outlets. She holds a diploma in Journalism and Media Studies and will soon receive her BA in Education from Makere University in Kampala.

    Previously she worked for the independent newspapers, The Daily Monitor and The Weekly Observer, covering law and human rights issues, providing both with extensive investigative journalism.

    Halimah endeavors to use her writing skills to bring awareness to the human struggle and find solutions to society’s problems. She is married with two children.(thewip.net)

  • dustyswan 7:56 am on May 18, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , beauty industries in Taiwan, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , skin damage and skin cancer by skinwhitening, Skin whitening big business in Asia, , , , skin whitening in asia, , skin whitening phenomenon in asia, , , tetap cantik tanpa pemutih, , , why asian want pale skin   

    Skin whitening big business in Asia 



    Customers from Mumbai to Beijing say they want lighter skin, but health professionals are concerned.

    Barack Obama’s inauguration as the nation’s first African-American president got a lot in this country thinking and talking about race. Obama’s triumph proved that any child can dream of becoming president, regardless of skin color. We in America may have reaffirmed the notion that the color of a person’s skin shouldn’t matter. But for many people across Asia, the color of skin matters a lot. In recent years, “skin whitening” has become a huge industry in countries like China, Korea, Japan, and India.

    “The World’s” Phillip Martin has been exploring the phenomenon of skin whitening in Asia and has this report.

    Walking beside a rushing stream in Hsingchu, Taiwan, 18-year-old Hilda Chu balances an umbrella in one hand and textbooks in the other. Her skin is ghostly white. Hilda says she carries an umbrella mainly to avoid skin cancer, but also to preserve her light complexion: “I try hard to make my skin white, yes. If my skin is lighter, I think I will be more happier. ”

    Hilda Chu is among a growing number of Asians who are paying lots of money to dermatologists like Dr. Hseih Ya Ju who says bluntly Asians like white skin. Dr. Hsieh works at MacKay Memorial Hospital in Hsingchu, where she sees about 25 patients a day. She says her professional motto is simple: “To make your skin white, make your skin tight, and your skin bright.”

    Dr. Hsieh says her treatments can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 US dollars per session: “Sometimes we suggest patients take some pills – Transamine. Transamine is a kind of pills that will help patient become white.”

    Whitening regimes like transamine are offered in creams, pills, and injections and with laser treatments. But not everyone can afford them — so a growing number of poor Asian women are using illegal products containing toxic chemicals that have left some of them disfigured. Even some government-sanctioned skin whitening products contain high levels of toxic mercury.

    So it’s no surprise that Dr. Ernesto Gonzalez, a senior dermatologist at Boston’s Mass General Hospital, says skin whitening can be dangerous: “The best protection that you have for your skin against sun damage is pigment, melanin. If you lose the pigment of your skin, you suddenly become white. The whiter they become the more chances they will be subjected to skin damage and skin cancer.”

    But this has not stemmed the practice in places like Taiwan, where more than 50 percent of women and a smaller but growing proportion of men pay big money to lighten their beige, tan, and golden complexions. One survey by Synovate found that 4 out of 10 women in Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea used a skin-whitening cream. More than 60 global companies are competing for a share of Asia’s estimated $18 billion dollar market.

    Nydia Lin is a senior executive in Taiwan for the Japanese cosmetics giant, Shisedo: “We promote the idea of whitening. Especially in Taiwan, we see many beautiful idols on TV and they are all very focused on their whitening skin. As Chinese say, ‘Whitening is everything. You can just cover all your defective parts if you are white.'”

    You hear variations of that slogan – you can cover up three shortcomings if you are white – all over Asia. But Chao-Yuan Tsen sees whitening as a form of self-hatred and racial inferiority. She’s Secretary General of the Awakening Foundation, a women’s rights organization: “The beauty industries in Taiwan emphasize different skin tones. They say if you can be as white as Japanese and Western women, you can be as beautiful as a cherry blossom. I think this promoting this kind of image that they create doesn’t make women any happier. It actually creates more anxiety.”

    Anxiety that’s deeply ingrained in the fabric of Asian society. Beijing-based author Lijia Zang knows this firsthand, and writes about it in her recent memoir ‘Socialism is Great’: “I have often been called a “peasant girl”. Even my sister sometimes calls me a peasant girl. I don’t think my father liked me very much because I was not a pretty child. I was dark, and I remember he said to me repeatedly that I was not their natural daughter. They picked me up from a coal dump, which was why my skin was so dark.”

    Across much of Asia, long held views about class superiority help explain the appeal of skin whitening. So says Anne Rose Kitagawa, assistant curator of Japanese Art at Harvard’s Sackler Museum. She cites the 11th century Japanese epic “The Tale of Genji” that she says tells the story of a raunchy prince and his descendents: “They had many late night trysts with women who they almost never saw in direct light. And the feminine ideal during the Han period for women of the court was almost unearthly light white skin. Sort of large, moon-like, roundish faces, long, long black hair. And so you can see how a culture that maintained that as an early ideal might continue on with an ideal that light skin equals beauty.”

    That ancient ideal has been reinforced by modern Western culture. And it can be seen in the faces of Western models gazing from the giant billboards along the route of the commuter train that snakes through downtown Tokyo. The billboards also include white-skinned Asians with porcelain colored faces. Across Asia, the pressure to be white is pushed by relentless advertising, from Japan to Korea to India. This ad for skin whitening products features one of India’s biggest movie stars: Shah Rukh Khan – who says that you, too, can be successful in life and love if your skin color is a lighter shade of pale.

    Tarun Khanna of the Harvard Business School and author of the book “Billions of Entrepreneurs” says many Indians believe a fair complexion is the key to finding a successful partner: “In the marriage market, fairness is a big, big deal. You can go to the websites that are marriage brokers and the very fact that most of the matrimonial ads will present people as being fair skinned or not indicate that it is an attribute that the market values.”

    Indeed. Of the more than 200 personal ads I surveyed online, 192 Indian men and women either described themselves as fair skinned or said they were looking for a partner who was. It’s a common desire across Asia. On the streets of Beijing, with translation assistance from a young writer, Mia Lee, a reddish-hued migrant worker from Central China was asked what he thought was the secret to happiness.

    He wants a girlfriend with pale skin.

    Which is why you see advertisements for skin whitening products just about everywhere here. Author Lijia Zang says it’s another sign of China’s emerging middle class and the social pressures faced by women trying to enter the professional work force: “So for some women, even those who don’t think white is particularly beautiful, but in order to go far in a career, in order to attract a good boyfriend, they try to put on whitening cream.”(pri.org)

    PRI’s “The World” is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. “The World” is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston.

    • stephaniefrancisco 11:43 am on November 5, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      TRUE! Skin whitening is such a hit here in ASIA especially in the Philippines. almost everyone wants to get lighter skin.. Regardless to whether its a male or a female..

      Hmmm.. no wonder a lot of investors invested their money on bringing in cosmetic products.. you might want to check out my site.. there’s this one product that i am positively sure of its safety and effectivity.. really amazing once you come to think of it..

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