In Asia, using various skin whitening products is a common practice among women, but clearly, the trend is also catching up to many Asian men.
The preference to have white skin goes back in ancient times when “handsome men” were described as someone who has fair skin. Others suggested that whiteness is a symbol of purity and superiority and also a case of class distinction.
In a 2012 book by anthropologist Nina Jablonski titled “Living Color”, she said that white skin signifies a person’s social status.
“Untanned skin was a symbol of the privileged class that was spared from outdoor labor… Dark-skinned people were deprecated because they were of the labouring class that worked out in the sun,” Jablonski said.
These notions were passed down from one generation to another, which is why the bias only grew more popular.
For instance, Filipinos – often called as “little brown brothers” by Americans – have grown massively conscious of this kind of pattern.
A 2015 study found that the popularity of skin whitening products among male university students in 26 different low and middle-class countries was significantly high. In Thailand, for example, 69.5% of male university students used skin whitening products while 25.4% of male students in the Philippines used them.
Although the use of many whitening products among Asians is prevalent, they do not necessarily want to look “Caucasian” since it’s what other races might think. It is safe to say that the changing notion of what masculinity is in these Asian countries is a major attribute.
But for some, having fair-skinned is considered a social and economic gain. Similar to the case of 19-year-old Filipino named Jose who aspires to be a flight attendant, The Conversation said.
“If you’re fair-skinned, you’re noticeable, and that gives you an advantage,” the young Filipino said.
However, because of the increasing use of many whitening products in Asian countries where regulations are oftentimes lenient, it raised concerns from public health outlets.
Mercury, which has long been banned in many countries, is still found in numerous whitening products. But the probable danger seems minor because the desire to reach this unforgiving standard of beauty is far more important.
As the desire to be socially accepted, elevated, and admired because of physical appearance and skin color increases, it is less likely that the stigma of having dark skin will go away.
This only provokes another layer of inequality and division that right from the beginning, should have never been there.
Image via Luhan Please