Products that change our skin tone are relentlessly marketed globally. There is no profit in making us feel beautiful within our skin. This multibillion dollar Industry Of Insecurity is global and has complex roots… So lets take a look at this big business of big insecurity...
Photo credit: AnthroScape : Human Biodiversity Forum
The Path Of Insecurity Is Paved With Corporate Gold
The story of why we desire different coloured skin is thousands of years old. Asian people believe that fair skin is attractive. This viewpoint can be fundamentally attributed to the fact that wealthier members of society do not need to go into the sun to work. Skin darkened by the sun is reserved for those performing physical tasks such as agriculture or manual labour. The logic is that fair skin is reserved for those with money and makes them more attractive.
Across Asia I have seen millions of people riding their motorbikes in the hot sun covered head to foot - complete with face-mask and gloves. Not an inch of skin is exposed. This cultural perspective is heavily leveraged by some of the world’s largest corporations with a growing industry of injections, creams, pills and even lasers.
Europeans used to have a similar perspective to Asia, with thousands of years of high society fashion leaning towards the artificially pale. One theory of how Europeans eventually came to desire a tan is that the fashion icon Coco Chanel popularised tanned skin in 1929, after spending time in the south of France. Chanel is reputed to have said: "A girl simply has to be tanned".
Today in the West a tan is indicative of having money for travelling or for spending on artificial skin treatments. Again we see the perspective that having money allows you to change your skin colour and become attractive.
Photo courtesy of Deep South Mag
Is Beauty Only Skin-deep?
The skin is considered the largest organ in our bodies with a total area over 1.85 square meters. Our skin colour is one of the most perceptible phenotypic variations we have and is determined primarily by the type and amount of melanin our bodies synthesise. Our skin plays numerous vital functions for health and social interaction.
In this post I wish to discusses the social and health issues associated with this lucrative industry...
Photo credit Bioessence
Skin Whitening In Asia
The skin whitening industry is booming across Asia. Skin whitening therapies range from the inexpensive to thousands of dollars! The poorest of Asian woman are known to use whitening agents containing toxic chemicals including mercury, which can cause disfigurement and other injuries.
Studies claim that in Taiwan more than 50% of women lighten their skin and 4 out of 10 women in Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea use skin-whitening cream. Across Asia pressure to have whiter skin is promoted by relentless advertising. This massive industry is driving a growing trend across the region that touts fair skin as being both beautiful and desirable.
Social conditioning has lead many Indians to believe "fair" skin is the key to finding love and earning money. Online marriage brokers in India show that significant value is placed on having or finding a partner with "fair" skin. One researcher found that of more than 200 personal ads they surveyed, 192 Indian men and women either described themselves as "fair" skinned or as looking for a partner who is "fair".
[Edit: I disagree with the loaded term "fair" - but this is the word that was used.]
China's emerging middle class are also feeling the pressure, especially amongst women entering the professional work force. The view is that pale skin will help you to succeed in both career and love. This perspective is held across Asia’s population.
I have personally met hundreds of Asians who have told me: "I am not beautiful because I am dark!" This maxim is fundamentally untrue and worrying. These examples reflect the growing cultural and marketing trend across Asia.
Photo courtesy of St Tropez
Skin Darkening In The West
The desire to look white in Asia is mirrored by the West’s passion for looking tanned. Darkening the colour of your skin has been big business since the growth tanning salons of the 70s. However increased awareness of the risks of UV rays have lead to spray tanning being the only industry segment that is showing growth. The sunless tanning industry in America alone is reputed to be worth over $1 Billion! Big business.
The same marketing techniques are used across nations to push the notion that we need to change our skin colour to be successful and desirable. Nearly 1 million people in United States use tanning salons every day. Approximately 71% of tanning salon patrons are girls and women aged 16–29.
So widespread is this phenomenon in the West that the current president of the United States: The Donald - is world famous for having an orange face. Personally I think that The Donald is the funniest looking US president ever - he provides some small humour value to this distressing trend! ;-)
Are There Health Risks From Skin Treatments?
Studies have concluded that the majority of the chemicals we rub onto our skin are absorbed into our blood stream. In 2016 Ghana issued a ban on the importation of products containing the skin-lightening chemical hydroquinone [C6H4(OH)2]. Hydroquinone is the primary chemical in many skin-bleaching products and is considered a potential carcinogen. It is already banned or restricted in Japan, Australia, and the EU.
Mercury is another highly toxic metal that is commonly found in many skin whitening products. Steroids are also widely used and can have severe damaging effects on our fragile bodies. The rise in awareness of the dangers of UV light has moved the tanning industry away from sun beds towards tanning sprays. Some of the toxic ingredients used in tanning lotions include:
- Mineral oil – a petroleum derivative that can be carcinogenic and comedogenic (it blocks pores)
- Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate — this is a skin and eye irritant and has been found to contain formaldehyde
- Amyl acetate — a chemical used in the dry cleaning business
- Octyl stearate – a comedogenic irritant
- Isopropyl myristate — comedogenic and may bind to carcinogenic nitrates in your body
- Artificial fragrances & colours — fragrances used in tanning products are often created from petrochemicals
A senior dermatologist at Boston's Mass General Hospital, Dr. Ernesto Gonzale said: "The best protection that you have for your skin against sun damage is pigment, melanin. If you lose the pigment of your skin, you suddenly become white. The whiter they become the more chances they will be subjected to skin damage and skin cancer."
I do not want this post to turn into a long critique of the toxic chemicals found in skin products but it is clear that there are many real health issues. If you would like another post discussing this topic please let me know.
Photo courtesy of Vasaline
[Edit: Does that image really say: "transform your face on Facebook"? Lets transform ourselves with Steemit! =)]
The Business Of Insecurity - Who Profits & By How Much?
There are more than 60 global companies competing for a share of Asia's lucrative skin whitening marketplace. Many further companies are selling skin tanning solutions to Western consumers. Some of the major players in the industry are:
- Clarins SA
- E.T. Browne Drug Company
- CavinKare Pvt Ltd
- Shiseido Company Limited
- Beiersdorf AG
- The Procter & Gamble Company
Estimates vary but it appears that Asia's skin whitening market could be worth as much as $18 Billion a year! This enormous figure clearly provides a huge financial incentive to companies trying to convince us that we will look better, make more money and have more sex if only our skin colour was different!
If you have pale skin, you should look darker. If you are darker you should look paler. Just being yourself and knowing you were born beautiful isn't profitable for these corporations.
It is important that you suffer perpetual insecurity about the way you look and risk your health to ensure continued profit for the shareholders of these global corporations!
Photo credit colorful.bigbangfish.com
Beauty Comes From Within You!
The advertising budgets convincing us that we need to look different are enormous. The pressures on young people to conform are very real and scary. I believe that true beauty comes from within us - from our spirit!
If just a fraction of the money spent on marketing products that change the way we look were redirected towards encouraging us to feel confident within our own skin - the world would be a much happier place!
The truth is there is no money to be made from making us feel good about ourselves! It is much more profitable to sell us insecurity!
I applaud the South Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech - known as Queen of the Dark. After being bullied for her skin colour as a youth she now advocates feeling beautiful in your natural state.
There are no corporate profits for being yourself - but there is definitely a lot of beauty! =)
Intelligence and beauty grow from thinking for yourself!
You are children of the Universe and the Jockey loves you All!