THE CULTURE OF COLOURISM: OBSESSION WITH LIGHTER SKIN TONES DRIVING OPPORTUNITIES IN THE SKIN LIGHTENERS MARKET
APRIL 3, 2019 @3.37 PM
The desire for a lighter complexion is deeply rooted from ancient times. In “Who’s the fairest of them all? Television ads for skin whitening cosmetics in Hong Kong,” S. Leong shares the Chinese myth that consuming a small amount of pearl powder together with hot water every day can lighten one’s complexion.
In “Fair skin in South Asia: An Obsession?” Journal of Pakistan Association of Dermatologists, P.R. Shankar and P. Subish attributes the colonial legacy in South Asia as the contributing factors for the perception that white is powerful and beautiful as the white race was the ruler while the dark natives were the ruled.
Unfortunately, this belief dictated by Eurocentrism, is a response to hundreds of years of colonial indoctrination that has been passed down through socialisation since independence.
Today, this point of view has become so pervasive even in Malaysia that individuals are subjectively ranked according to the colour tones of their skin. Those who have fairer skin tones receive preferential treatment both within and between races. Social status, marriage desirability and economic attainment are all related to light skin tones.
This notion is further propelled by advertisers of creams, lotions, traditional herbs and supplements through television, movie and video images that seem to render fair skinned men and women as role models or symbols of masculinity, beauty and achievement.
Market for skin lighteners projected to increase globally
According to the Global Industry Analyst Inc, a worldwide business strategy and market intelligence source, the global market for skin lighteners is projected to reach US31.2billion by 2024.
The Asian Scientist reported that the beauty business in the Asia-Pacific region is estimated to be worth an enormous US$80 billion and the skin-lightening market alone is valued at over US$13 billion.
One survey by London-based market research firm Synovate found that four out of 10 women in Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea used a skin-whitening cream.
In addition, the report said that more than 60 global companies are competing for a share of Asia's estimated $18 billion dollar market.
Dr Wan Syazli Rodzaian Wan Ahmad, Consultant Plastic and Aesthetic Surgeon, UITM Private Specialist Centre likened skin whitening products to playing with fire.
“There are many beauty products in the market that contains hydroquinone which is a bleaching drug. It suppresses the melanin –the cell that gives colour to the skin—and it causes it to be removed.”
“Quantity used is uncontrolled to suppress the melanin to get a whitening effect. The problem is, over the long term, it could result in various kinds of complications. One of this is where the skin becomes very thick and silvery which basically alters the skin appearance. It totally disfigures and is very difficult to treat. We can’t do laser on it, can’t apply medication, except for very little steroid,” he said.
Dr Wan also explained that there was no scientific evidence to prove that Vitamin C and Sheep Placenta injections aided skin whitening.
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