Porcelain Skin

We all look in the mirror wanting to change something about ourselves. A freckle, a cleft chin, that extra cartilage on my nose tip. The thing is we all recognize the imperfections at some point, but what happens when the flaw you distinguish turns out to be your skin?

Now I�m not talking about acne, rosacea or other skin diseases. I�m referring to skin color. In America, numbers of African-American men and women use creams as well as bleaches to lighten the appearance of their skin. The market is quite widespread, and the cultural history more than explains the radical cosmetic routine�s popularity.

The fascinating state of things is that African-Americans are not the only ones using these bleaching agents. The women of the Hong Kong and the Southeast Asian beauty market eat this stuff up. The Hong Kong transit lines host nearly 3.5 million passengers per day. The train cars are plastered with flat screen TVs that promote flashy multimedia campaigns selling homeland products as well as the �best from the west.� One of the most popular advertisements belonged to the company Wacoal, an intimate apparels corporation. The ad that promoted the company's lingerie line featured a dark-haired man and petite, dark-haired woman. The man rubbed his hands across the woman�s bosom and derriere as he was magically transported to a futuristic laboratory to create the perfect garment for her assets.

In the final scene, another Asian woman appeared in the gown he has created. She is not the same woman as before. She has luscious blond locks, lighter skin, and a curvaceous hourglass figure that would make Pam Anderson look twice. The new girl seems to be the antithesis of the first. She is what some call the Caucasian ideal.

The Asian obsession with Western culture has expanded so broadly that the popularity of skin bleaching treatments and crèmes in the Hong Kong market is staggering. And they’re not stopping with their faces. Lightening treatments include creams that whiten darker areas like armpits and knees, as well as a “pink nipple” trend.

Lighter skin is still considered to be the ideal enhancement in Asia. In 2004, surveyors questioned 2,500 women from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Korea and the Philippines. An astounding 38% of the women admitted to using bleaching crèmes regularly. In Taiwan, 35% of cosmetic sales are attributed to skin-lightening treatments, and many of the products have hydroquinone, the main chemical used to change skin pigment which also has been linked to cancer.

While many of these products remain illegal, it doesn’t impede the lengths people will go through in order to be happy about their aesthetics.Images courtesy of Eyeshadowlipstick.com, Browngirlmagazine.com

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