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  • This is a balikbayan box.

  • It's a care package from my mom back home in Los Angeles.

  • It's always filled with everyday items and a bunch of Filipino goodies.

  • Instant noodles in here, Sinigang soup packet, fruit from my mom's backyard, toothpaste.

  • But then there's this, skin whitening products.

  • Skin whiteners are a big business.

  • More than four hundred million dollars worth of skin whitening products is sold each year in India alone.

  • Eight out of ten women in Nigeria use skin lightening products.

  • The world's highest percentage.

  • Skin lightening market in Asia-Pacific alone is valued at over 13 billion US dollars.

  • In 2015, the skin whitening industry was worth about $10 billion worldwide.

  • And by 2024 it is expected to more than triple to 31.2 billion dollars.

  • These products have been around for a long time.

  • And have proven to be damaging physically and emotionally.

  • So, what accounts for the growing popularity?

  • For starters skin whitening products rely on advertisements like these, "Wow, you have the most beautiful, glowing skin"

  • "Now, I have visibly fairer skin"

  • Skin color forms part of what gives us access and prestige in society.

  • All these negative associations that society has already imposed on dark skin.

  • "You can't be happy, you can't find a man."

  • Right? You don't fit into society beauty ideals.

  • So the advertising is only reinforcing and exacerbating a sustained message.

  • Thanks to globalization, it's a message that's reaching more people every year.

  • The worldwide cosmetics market was worth about 293.5 billion dollars last year and it is expected to grow.

  • That growth is fueled by a rising middle class especially in the Asia-Pacific region, which has the biggest share of the cosmetics market.

  • But these products and the messages of these ads are destructive because they rely on a concept called "colorism", which sociologist Margaret Hunter defines as the process of discrimination that privileges light-skinned people of color over their dark-skinned counterparts.

  • One study showed that lighter skinned black women in North Carolina received shorter prison sentences than their darker peers.

  • Another study found that white interviewers deemed light-skinned blacks and Hispanics more intelligent than dark-skinned people who had identical educational achievements.

  • They also reinforce centuries-old ideas about race and hygiene.

  • Check out these old soap ads.

  • This was part of a larger project of presenting white civilization, European civilization as superior and here, the association is that blackness is a form of uncleanliness that can be wiped away.

  • But it's also, in many ways, simply a very blatantly racist ad.

  • During the civil rights era, the Black Power movement sought to counter this idea with messages like "Black is beautiful".

  • But that message hasn't undone the damage wrought by centuries of colorism.

  • Why do you want that skin color?

  • Because it looks lighter than this kind.

  • Cause this looks alike like that one.

  • I just don't like the way brown looks.

  • Cause the way brown looks really nasty for some reasons, but I don't know what reason, that's all.

  • These products are also dangerous because they can physically damage the skin.

  • I've seen very intense cystic acne.

  • I've seen irreversible skin thinning from using high-strength hydroquinone.

  • I've seen ochronosis, which is a paradoxical darkening of the skin.

  • Aside from creams and soaps, there's a wide variety of ways people are lightening their skin.

  • Like, getting chemical peels, using glutathione injections or pills or even applying cleaning bleach to their face and body.

  • Hydroquinone is a highly toxic chemical used in photo processing, rubber manufacturing and hair dyes.

  • But it is also one of the most commonly used ingredients for skin whitening.

  • It's regulated in the U.S. and banned in certain countries abroad.

  • But consumers get their hands on high concentrations of it through under-the-table sources.

  • In the U.S. light-skinned beauty standards still exists in more subtle messages like, "who is considered the most beautiful?"

  • And some celebrities of color appearing to have lighter skin over time.

  • You are looking to be white, what do you say to that?

  • I would say that as an adult you decide to do things.

  • It's like, do you guys condemn people who tan their skin?

  • Do they do it because they hate themselves?

  • No, it's a choice as an adult.

  • While wanting lighter skin is not a crime nor is it necessarily bad.

  • It's important to be conscious of this choice and why it's different from skin tanning or putting on lipstick?

  • Because ultimately, from applying creams and getting regular treatments to avoiding skin tanning all together, skin whitening is a way of life.

  • Attitudes are starting to change with inclusive makeup lines and emojis, media campaigns celebrating dark skin beauty and more celebrities talking about the issue.

  • "I still feel like that's what we're fighting, healing from the past"

  • But many people are still unaware of their preferences for light skin because it's so deeply ingrained in society.

  • And despite the criticism and safety issues of these products, the projected growth in sales means the world still has a long way to go until the practice of skin whitening becomes obsolete.

This is a balikbayan box.

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B2 US Vox skin whitening skinned lighter tanning

Why the market for skin whitening is growing

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    Samuel posted on 2019/03/04
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