The New York Times ran an article
a few days ago discussing the aggressive marketing of whitening creams and the rise of illegal whitening products. Yup, that's right. These creams turn your skin - face/body...you name it...white. Or whiter.
I never understood this - having "whiter" skin. My mom, I hate to admit, along with several of her other friends, use such creams. They also don't go tanning, they use an umbrella on a sunny day and stay indoors during peak sun hours. Some of this isn't bad of course, especially to prevent skin cancer. But creams to make you "whiter"?
Recently, on my trip to the Philippines, I did see numerous billboards promoting such products as well as models and actresses with such "light" skin tones. When in more expensive parts of town, the girls there also have "lighter" skin colours. "Whiter" girls were seen as more beautiful - many around me striving for that colour.
Is this a bad thing? Is it the same as wearing lipstick, eyeliner or dying your hair? How about putting on a suit to look "professional"?
The article points out that:
"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."
In my opinion, if either of these are true, remotely true...then no - it is not the same as wearing make-up, or even getting a tan (as many people do to look healthier).
This can, if not already, create classism. We may judge based on skin colour, in this case, the tone of the color. We may higher/recruit a "whiter" person over a darker toned individual, assuming they are wealthy or come from a wealthier, educated family. I give this example since I found out that in the Philippines, finding a job is difficult, if nearly impossible. Of course, there are other examples to give.
Where doesn't marketing fit in all of this? Yes, marketing is there to get people interested in a product, to buy products...and stay loyal. With such a big market interested in this type of product, you would be crazy not to get involved. But in this case, we may be feeding into an aspect of society preference that is actually not good for the society. Does this matter to some? Maybe not, but maybe some companies and/or marketers do care. This is where ethics and marketing comes into play. I don't have the answers. But I think it is worth the discussion.
Tags: skin, marketing, ethics, New York Times, beauty