A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend about the difference of skin whitening and skin brightening. Apparently, instead of skin brightening, skin whitening had became a trend in Asia. “Everyone just wants to look white” my friend blurted out of the blue. Personally, I do agree that the majority of Asians are still striving for “fairer” skin instead of getting a sun-kissed type of look (nicknames that were actually given to my slightly tanner friends : Sexy chocolate, “hitam manis” (hitam : sweet ; manis : sweet)) Anyway, there was this study I read about a few weeks ago stating that, “the more Americanised you are as an asian, you are likely to be tanner.” Now, that is something to think about, right? How “Westernised” are you? or How “Asian” are you? On a scale of 1-10, i might be giving myself an 8 for conforming into that statement of being “Asian.”
Asians are said to be the decedents of Mongoloids and their skin colour are described as “yellow” in the West. But ironically, there are many Chinese and Japanese people used the term “white” to describe one’s skin colour. For instance, 美白，(mei bai) 白皙 (bai xi) are common words used in Chinese language while “白い” (shiroi) is used to described the “whiteness” of the skin in Japanese terms. You don’t see Asians describing their skin colours as “yellow-ish”, rather, they used terms like “white” and “black” to describe one’s skin colour. Fascinating culture isn’t it?
But at what cost are we lusting over white skin?
I understand the desire of wanting white skin. Growing up in Malaysia, it’s common to hear my mom going berserk when I am going out without sunscreen or an umbrella. But instead of having concerns of health issues such as pre-ageing of the skin, my mom would actually be more concerned if i will get “darker” for being under the sun. The dangers of getting skin cancer isn’t as scary as “getting darker skin.” For instance, there was this friend of mine who used a whitening cream for quite a while and it lightened her hyperpigmentations. She couldn’t be much happier but because the product contained mercury, it was a banned product in Malaysia. Yet, the salon is still selling that particular whitening cream up until today.
There are difference in skin whitening (bleaching) and skin brightening (to lighten the skin until its original state). The main difference of skin whitening products vs skin brightening products is that brightening products claimed to consist brightening ingredients such as Vitamin C extracts to give the skin a boost, making it look fresher and healthier. It doesn’t bleach the skin but people who uses these products tend to have brighter skin (almost like they have a constant halo on around their faces). Because of brighter skin, the skin tend to look a slight lighter and healthier.
Now, skin whitening products. Usually they would consist of health hazardous ingredients, namely, Mercury and Hydroquinone which is able to bring about different kinds of skin issues.
These two elements will react with the UV rays and oxidised, leading the skin to pigmentations and premature ageing. Hence, more products are actually used to “correct” those dark blotchy appearances. It is sorta of a vicious cycle. These chemicals alters the natural structure of the skin, while inhibiting the production of melanin (the skin’s natural protection), the skin is more susceptible and prone to skin cancer formation. The prolong use of Hydroquinone will damage connective tissues of the skin by thickening the collagen fibres while making the skin appeared to be blotchy and spotty. Mercury on the other hand, accumulates in the skin causing blue/green pigments and prolong usage of it will cause damages to certain organs such as the liver, kidney failure and mercury poisoning.
Now, it’s not the end of the world if you somehow, used a product that contained Mercury and Hydroquinone. Just stuff them into the trash and continue reading. Of course there are safer methods and ingredients to promote fairer skin, do check out ingredients such as Arbutin, Vitamin C, Licorice, Kojic Acid and Vitamin A. (Uses of each and one of them are listed below) These are safer to use and does not promote any kind of harm towards the skin. Hence, not damaging them.
Arbutin : Safer alternative to use in comparison to Hydroquinone as it doesn’t promote any skin damaging particles or any stimulations, toxins in the skin.
Vitamin C : Very effective ingredient in preventing pre-ageing. It synchronised with the collagens in your body, making the skin seemed healthier, bouncier and fresher!
Kojic Acid : Important in inhibiting the production of Melanin in our body. It can be included in our diet.
Licorice : Inhibit UV-B induced skin pigmentations and put other skin complications at ease.
Vitamin A : Not only it is good for your eyesight, do eat your carrots. It repairs damaged pelt complications in the skin.
A kind reminder, do check your labels and the ingredients before purchasing any product that claims to lightens the skin!
Personally, white skin or not, causing health damages in my terms, it’s just a big no-no.