The white skin booming trend isn’t only about being Western. In Asia, there is a deeply rooted cultural notion that associates dark skin with poverty and working in the fields, whereas pale skin reflects a more comfortable life out of the sun and, therefore, a higher socioeconomic status.
In Chinese culture, women prefer lighter skin tone because they believe ‘yī bái zhē bǎi chǒu,’ which means ‘a white complexion is powerful enough to hide seven faults.
For the same reasons, this cultural trend impacts millennial and middle-class Chinese citizens as we can see in the main Chinese cities: Chinese girls especially care a lot about covering their faces and body from the sun with a dark covering clothes and umbrellas when the weather is sunny. This is why the skin whitening cosmetics market is still booming despite the big controversies surrounding the subject in Western countries.
Read also: China Skincare Market Guide
Skin-Whitening products are dangerous for the health
Globally, the demand for whiteners is climbing, projected to reach $31.2 billion by 2024, up from $17.9 billion in 2017, especially in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, according to market intelligence firm Global Industry Analysts. Routine skin whitener use ranges from 40% in China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and South Korea, according to the World Health Organization.
Most commonly, people can develop contact dermatitis, an inflammatory reaction due to allergy or irritation leading to redness, itching, edema, and heat. It can take two weeks to clear but can also lead to postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Skin whiteners are still in demand, despite health concerns
Skin whitening and Strong cultural reasons
In many societies, especially in China, skin color was long seen as a sign of social class. With Western colonial incursions during the 18th and 19th centuries, the light skin of European colonizers became a marker of higher status, while the darker skin of Asians became a marker of colonial subjugation.
A skin-whitening trend that won’t slow down in Asia
The demand is expected to continue to grow despite their potential health dangers. Asian consumers are highly concerned regarding their beauty and hence tend to spend more on such products, particularly the current generation of consumers in their teens who tend to have a significant beauty budget. The World Health Organisation survey found that nearly 40% of women polled in nations including China are still currently using whitening products, as a habit.
Financial factors won’t stop skin-whitening products consumers
The rise in demand in Asia to these consumers, who are ready to spend millions of dollars in order to enhance their overall appearance. Cosmetic manufacturers are launching skin-lightening products on a regular basis in order to cash in on this lucrative business.
Other uses of skin whitening products in Asia
Skin whitening products are also used to treat acne marks or to even out her skin tone after a tan. But most skin-whitening products consumers grew up under pressure to be fairer. Most of these consumers in Asia believe that skin-whitening products can help to make their skin healthier and brighten.
However, many products need to keep up to date with research. Most of the whiteners are using outdated active ingredients, and people prefer to try something new and novel. This the main reason why the market is still profitable and a lot of brands are still launching their skin whitening products brands as there are opportunities in the Asian market.
The limits of skin-whitening skincare products
The color of our skin is determined by melanin, which is produced by melanocytes, a type of skin cell. Everyone has different numbers of melanocytes, and that’s why we have different skin colors. It’s impossible to change your gene or race, so there is a natural limit to the whitening effects that you can achieve through using skincare products.
It is impossible to make one’s own skin color lighter than one is born with. Because Asian skin has more melanin than Caucasian skin, inflammation can lead to postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, or discoloration, which usually goes away within a few months but can last indefinitely.
A lack of knowledge regarding skin-whitening dangers for the skin
The most dangerous thing is trying to whiten the skin in a short time, but still, some people keep doing it. I think the reason is, they don’t know it results in serious problems to the skin, such as allergies or depigmentation. A lot of skin-whitening products companies had to recall some of their products after complaints from their consumers, who got their skin damaged by their products. In addition, a lot of brands are just surfing on the trend of this lucrative market and don’t even have the right to commercialize those products and are just selling basic products with white packaging and lying marketing.
A lack in the law regarding skin-whitening products
There is no regulation of these products, and the advertising industry was using actors and spokespersons to promote these products as a way to enhance the desire for the product. We discover a range of new side effects every year, depending on the whiteners’ ingredients.
There are also different rules governing products in Asia. For example, cosmetic products in China require approval from the China Food and Drug Administration, which is one of the most strict regulations on skin whitening worldwide. There is an ingredient approval list but no limit on their concentration. For an ingredient to be added to the list, registration is required and could take years of research and a lot of investment.
There are ways to use skin-whitening products safely
There is a safe way to whiten if allergies and ingredients are taken into account. The way to achieve this is not by killing your melanocytes but to inhibit the synthesis of melanin or accelerating the removal of existing melanin. You can look for a regulated product from an authorized dealer, be patient and continue to use the product as long as you’re not allergic to it, plus reading and understanding the ingredient list.
L’Oréal ditches ‘fair’ and ‘lightening’ words from its beauty products
The announcement comes as a number of other major beauty companies turn on their terminology. Beauty giant L’Oréal has said it will remove words such as ‘white/whitening’ from all its distributed skincare products. L’Oréal said it would also ditch phrases that include ‘fair/fairness’ and ‘light/lightning’.
For example, Neutrogena Fine Fairness, available in Asia and the Middle East, and Clean & Clear Fairness, have now been discontinued. However, consumers have called for the brand to be banned altogether in a petition addressed to Unilever’s CEO Alan Jope, which has amassed more than 13,000 signatures.
Skin whitening trend, conclusion: changing attitudes
With high demand and a large number of products available, more regulation and programs are needed to teach people about potential side effects. Governments should support or initiate social programs that encourage people to appreciate diversity in skin color and not make simple connections between being fair and being beautiful and successful.