May 15, 2006

Race changing cream

If you thought plastic surgery was repulsive, apparently "whitening cream" has become popular in parts of Asia (via PrawfsBlawg):

The cream that she applied to her face and neck was supposed to transform her into a white-skinned beauty, the kind she saw in women's magazines and on television.But the illegally produced lotion she bought in a store near this village in southeastern Thailand turned her skin into a patchwork of albino pink and dark brown. Doctors say her condition may be irreversible."I never look in the mirror anymore," she said, sobbing during an interview.Whiter skin is being aggressively marketed across Asia, with vast selections of skin-whitening creams on supermarket and pharmacy shelves testament to an industry that has flourished over the past decade. In Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan, 4 of every 10 women use a whitening cream, a survey by Synovate, a market research company, found.The skin-whitening craze is not just for the face. It includes creams that whiten darker patches of skin in armpits and "pink nipple" lotions that bleach away brown pigment.And while many if not most whitening creams are safe, doctors, consumer groups and government officials are reporting dangerous consequences of the trend. Some involve women who use blemish creams in large, harmful amounts; inexpensive black-market products with powerful but illegal bleaching agents are selling briskly, particularly in the poorer parts of South and Southeast Asia....Sociologists have long debated why Asians, who are divided by everything from language to religion to ethnicity, share a deeply held cultural preference for lighter skin. One commonly repeated rationale is that a lighter complexion is associated with wealth and higher education levels because those from lower social classes, laborers and farmers, are more exposed to the sun.Another theory is that the waves of lighter-skinned conquerors, the Moguls from Central Asia and the colonizers from Europe, reset the standard for attractiveness.
Whatever the reason it is terrible not only that people would ever want to try to so drastically change their appearance, but that they would risk so much for that change. Not that things are better in the US...