Most women are obsessed with white skin. They live in a society where their black or tan skin does not have any value at all. Where their skin does not looks pretty. Where their skin causes them to feel unattractive. Faced with these expectations, they start to use whitening cream or lightening cream.
These products have become very popular across the globe, especially in Asia and Africa. Even though each country is differentiated by language, religion, ethnicity, they seem to share one common cultural belief which is “porcelain” skin is the standard color and it is beautiful. However, these products have been found to pose major health risks.
This belief and practice has painted women’s bodies and minds since ancient times. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) stated, “ In [western countries], aristocrats and rich people in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries kept their skin white by applying lead oxide powder to their faces.”
One common theory as to why women desire to have light complexion is a depiction of wealth and higher education. Farmers, laborers, and workers are normally underprivileged and from the lower social class. They work under the sun all day long, which makes them have darker complexions.
Western, fair-skinned women are often seen as the global standard of beauty, which is another possible reason for the products’ popularity.
In Cambodia, before they leave their house, women often will apply lotion to their skin and normally cover themselves with long sleeves, hat, and long pants. Even at night before they go to sleep, they will use these creams on a regular basis.
“If I don’t use it [lotion] when I am on trips, when I come back, my mom will say that I look like a monkey, ” stated Liger Leadership Academy facilitator, Sophorn Un.
It is interesting that there is even whitening cream inside lotions, even though the main purpose of lotion is used “as a moisturizer to treat or prevent dry, rough, scaly, itchy skin and minor skin irritations,” according to Webmd.
“[Whitening cream is] not only containing corticosteroids, but mercury,” based on Dr. Eliot F. Battle Jr., which The New York Times describes as “ a poison that can damage the nervous system.”
Despite the fact that whitening cream can adversely affect the human nervous system, many women are still using them. A survey conducted by the London-based market research firm Synovate found out that 4 out of 10 women in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan use whitening cream, according to Asian Scientist.
In 2011, World Health Organisation revealed that about 77% of Nigerians uses skin lightening products on regular basis. Whereas in Mali, Senegal, South Africa, and Togo, there are 25%, 27%, 35%, 59% respectively.
Gender stereotyping is also a major factor that influences women to use these unsafe products. As children, countless images of women with white skin in commercials enter their brain, and they internalise it. A common theme in commercials is a tan woman concerned about her skin color. Then, after she uses whitening cream, people around her, especially men, will be stunned by her new complexion.
“There is evidence of the prioritizing of pale skin in beauty and fashion features,” according to ANZMAC.
Powerful.Beautiful.Attractive. All adjectives used to influence and encourage women to use whitening products. Today, there is still a large population of women using whitening cream. They are easily impacted because society has set such rigid standards for beauty. They try to achieve these standards, so that they are powerful, beautiful, and attractive without knowing the harmful side effects of these products. White skin should not be driving women’s perception of beauty.
Author: Makara Poy