Monkey Abroad

Videos and stories of the life abroad – food, culture, travel & work

The Skin Whitening Epidemic in Thailand


If you’re the type of person who values having bronzed skin, get a load of this – in Thailand, skin whitening is all the rage. It seems every lotion, cream and deodorant here contains some skin-bleaching chemical. In fact, you have to scour markets to find a cosmetic product that doesn’t contain whitening.

At first glance, skin whitening as a societal norm seems bizarre. But consider the American standard of beauty, where you’ll find a tanning salon on most major street corners. Folks in the U.S. and other countries expose themselves to the sun’s bronzing rays to move one step closer their own ideas of aesthetic perfection.

Some people pay handsomely for tanning salon memberships. That’s hard earned cash being spent on concentrated exposure to cancerous U.V. rays. Put that into perspective and skin whitening lotion doesn’t seem like a big deal.

Thais view dark skin as a trait of the working class. Skin whitening is a way to appear more successful in Thai culture.

It seems no matter where we’re from, we view beauty as the opposite of what we are, naturally. The fair-skinned American woman working on her faux bronze is the same as the insecure young Thai woman with dark skin complexion applying whitening lotion.

Skin Whitening


Peering into another culture’s insecurities can help us better understand the ridiculous things that make us insecure. One culture’s standard of beauty is exactly what another culture seeks to deviate from. And visa versa.

So as it turns out, the grass isn’t greener on the other side (yeah, yeah – you saw that coming). Just remember: the next time you lay out in the sun, a Thai person somewhere is scratching their head at you.

Author: Kevin Cook

I want to inspire you to pursue your own dream of traveling and/or living overseas!


  1. Ooh man. They would love my super fair, Minnesotan complexion.

  2. Good work kevo on the blog, keepin it interesting

  3. Wouldn’t they love to see my blue eyed year round tanned little sister!

  4. During the 1980s tanning was huge and I used to spend my summer trying to get brown. Now being older and more wiser I tend to stay pale. I didn’t realize that skin lightening was so popular in Asia.

    • Yes it’s an interesting contrast to western culture’s aesthetic obsession. I see my Thai students and co-teachers applying whitening lotion to their arms and face regularly during class and on breaks.

  5. Skin whitening is the hot topic for people in this day and age. Science has spread its wings to become efficiently able to do anything a person can think of. So has become with beautifying the skin. Many products have been introduced in the market that can help the skin to become fair and beautiful but they have yet not been able to satisfy their customers because of the major flaws in them.

Let me know what you think


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