Skin Lightening in Thailand

16 Sep

Like tooth whitening adverts but with skin.

Before arriving in Thailand, I had no idea how obsessed some Thai people are with the colour of their skin or how accidentally racist the beauty industry is out here.

There are adverts everywhere showing Thai women with bleached out, flawless faces, advertising some sort of skin lightening product with captions reading, ‘We make you beautiful.’

As a teenager I worked at the Body Shop for a while and sometimes when I’d apply make-up on Asian women they’d ask me to make their skin lighter. This always struck me as odd but it’s pretty obvious why now.

Not only are there excessive amounts of skin lightening advertising everywhere here but all the Thai models, actors and actresses are incredibly white, and in every shopping centre there are skin whitening beauty salons, often several in a row.

It’s also not uncommon to see people who aren’t out to rob, wearing black balaclavas in the midday sun- fearful of their skin becoming darker.

Whilst in Chiang Rai I asked a Thai man who worked in the hostel we were staying at why people are so eager to lighten their skin. He said, “a lot of people don’t want to be confused with  labourers or rice field workers who have darker skin which is seen as a sign of poverty.”

He went on to say that many Thai people are heavily influenced by Japan, Korea and western countries. And in Bangkok it’s popular for women to get nose jobs “to make their noses less flat like western people and skin lightening injections.”

I started to realize that if I needed to buy moisturiser in Thailand, it’d be a mission to find products that don’t contain lightening ingredients. In a way I find this more disturbing; It’s assumed that everyone would prefer lighter skin whether they want it or not.

And finally, the lightening obsession doesn’t just end with skin. Yesterday I discovered that even the biscuit sections in shops only seem to stock white Oreo’s. I couldn’t even spot any of the original kind. Things have clearly gone too far.

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2 Responses to “Skin Lightening in Thailand”

  1. Rasheed September 16, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

    Woah.. I’ve never seen Golden Oreos before. We have our share of fair skin obsession as well, here in India. We get ads on TV, radio and print trying to show how successful a woman can be in her career, relationship, etc if she has fairer skin; “sad-faced dark girl – narrate problem – cue savior with cream – girl now fairer, smiling, problem gone”. No skin whitening salons in a row. Not yet anyway.

    • clarehudson September 17, 2011 at 10:31 am #

      Yeah, it’a pretty shocking! How is it allowed I wonder.

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