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.
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.