In a world where all skin colours are expected to be valued A equally, We’d likely accept the concept of skin whitening More with a simple shift in perspective. By Saarah Jasmine.
s a beauty junkie, I use almost anything I can get my hands on. Take one look at my dresser and you may think I have a serious hoarding problem. In this process of slathering on everything from snail slime to sheep placenta, I’ve often been confronted about ‘whitening’ products, and what this jargon actually means. Do beauty brands really want us to be fairer? Do light-skinned Asians not perceive their dark-skinned counterparts as beautiful, too? At first, I was uncomfortable with using these products, too. How is it possible that such a racist term can be used so openly in marketing beauty products? Then, with my foray into the beauty industry, I began to understand the whole host of social and marketing implications behind the term. The word ‘whitening’ here is beginning to have negative connotations, especially among millennials – it’s an insult to the ‘love the skin you’re in’ concept, which plays a key part in them accepting and loving themselves as they are. However, there are parts of the world where whitening products are still sold blatantly for the purpose of getting fairer skin. A recent example of this was when a skincare ad in Thailand portrayed the message, “Just by being white, you win.” Understandably, the cosmetics company behind it was subsequently attacked on social media for such racist connotations, leading to the withdrawal of the ad. This only confirmed my suspicions that millennials are also rejecting the view that ‘whiter’ skin is superior. Plus, with the way that social media works, people have no qualms in completely rejecting anything even remotely associated with such an idea. So, in this modern age, the one-dimensional ‘whitening’ sense is becoming more and more irrelevant. It simply doesn’t capture the idea of the radiance, luminosity or transcendence of beauty we’ve become accustomed to, or any other aspect of our skin, which we desire for that absolutely filterless complexion. Instead, the notion of ‘whitening’ seems like it only hones in on the shade of our skin. I won’t deny that certain ads in other parts of Asia perpetuate this prejudice against darker skin tones. But a majority of Asian women turn to whitening products for skin health reasons, such as to rid themselves of sun spots and uneven skin tone, instead of outright lightening their complexions by two or three shades.
So a lot of this simply comes down to semantics – as informed millennials, we should be aware, that at least for larger cosmetic companies, the word ‘whitening’ simply means ‘brightening’. Darker-skinned friends have lamented over the use of the word ‘whitening’, and how alienating it is when products are marketed to ‘fix’ your skin colour. Ads that use colour charts to show how much fairer you can get don’t help, either. For them, buying a whitening product goes against their core value of feeling beautiful no matter their skin colour. Remember – it’s translucence, radiance and luminosity that we’re aiming for, not a whiter skin tone. In this modern day and age, the focus is not on the shade of your skin; rather, its overall glow. Oh, and of course this also gels perfectly with that idea of loving the skin you’re in, no matter what.