Beauty, at a Cost - Beauty Addict

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Beauty, at a Cost

There's a great article in The New York Times today about how far some Asian women will go for pale, white skin. A snippet:

"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."

A pale complexion is considered the height of beauty by many Asians; more from the Times piece:

"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."

If you've ever read The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck you'll have witnessed this desire for white skin at its cruelest. I recall the main character coming into money and leaving his poor, working class wife, who had brown skin from years of laboring in the fields, for a concubine named Lotus who had pale, milky skin from staying indoors all day.

It's such a stark contrast to the rampant desire for a tan that we live with in the US. One of my Asian friends tells me I would be the belle of the ball in several countries over there due to my paleness. But, here I sit every day in New York, vigorously applying self tanner and bronzer. Beyond that, the proliferation of tanning salons in this country is a testament to the value we place on tanned skin, even with the blatant risk of skin cancer.

The difference between the cultural norms is incredible, isn't it?

How about you? Do you pine for a tan, do you idealize the pale look - or do you like your skin just the way it is?