Skin Whitening Products Are Common in Asia

I have been meaning to write a post on this for awhile and after reading about Nivea’s recent ad controversy I thought now was a good time.

Since I have been in Asia I have noticed that a lot of Asians are really concerned about skin color, and for many of them, lighter seems to be better.  In fact, there are skin whitening products everywhere, and it seems like almost every single product has the word “whitening” on it.

Snail White products are everywhere in Thailand.

Many Asian women also seem to try to avoid any sort of sun exposure.  It is really common to use umbrellas to block the sun (and I have done it too, it actually works quite well especially on hot days), and it is also quite common for people to wear hats. When I wear my hat in Asia it just feels normal, last time I was in the U.S. I felt like I looked a little weird every time I put my hat on since nobody else was ever wearing one.


In many places like Vietnam, etc. you will see people working on the beach completely covered, even if it is quite hot out.  They will have on pants, a long sleeve shirt, a hat and possibly even a scarf over their face so they have no sun exposure at all.


I have spoken to Asians who have told me that lighter skin is more beautiful, and I have heard that darker skin can be associated with lower paying jobs (i.e., the kind where you are out in the sun all day).

There is even a large selection of beauty products at convenience stores.

Ironically it is the exact opposite for westerners – the goal for westerners at a beach appears to be to get darker skin.  It is actually quite funny at beaches because often times the Asians will be all covered up, while the foreigners will be walking around in bikinis, etc., often showing off a tan or a sunburn and you see lots of them baking in the sun to get a tan.  I guess you always want what you don’t have, with some people trying to get darker while others want to be lighter.

This was in India.

I was raised by a mother promoting the idea that a tan is a good thing and “laying out” was all the rage when I was a kid.  I am not even sure if I ever used sunscreen as a child, I certainly don’t remember using it.  Of course I am paying for it now.  I had a mole removed that wasn’t cancerous but apparently something about it showed that I am at a higher risk of skin cancer so I am supposed to get a skin cancer screening every year.  And we won’t even talk about the wrinkles……..

That combined with the ongoing melasma issues I am having on this trip mean that I am one of those people wearing sunscreen and a hat whenever I am in the sun.  Not that it has done any good.

I will even confess that I have used a few of the “whitening” products available in Asia in an effort to fight my ongoing melasma issues, but so far I haven’t found one that has actually worked.


I guess I’m not sure what exactly my point is here.  Of course racism is a very bad thing.  On the other hand, after being in Asia with so many “whitening” products around maybe I am seeing the ad from a different perspective.  Is it racist, sure, but on the other hand, these “whitening” products seem to be quite popular.  I guess I feel a little sorry for Nivea,  I am betting they were just trying to sell products, not put forth a statement about race, but then again, I really don’t know.

Until next time……..




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