History of Skin Whitening
Asian, African, Latin American and Middle Eastern cultures cherish fairness stemming back to ancient Japan and China. Whiter skin was a noble status for beauty and social rank.
Japanese Geishas painted their skin white for their graceful profession as entertainers.The Chinese ground pearls from seashells and swallowed them to lighten their skin.
And during the Achaemenid dynasty in Persia (now Iran), farmers used hydroquinone lightening creams to offset the tanning they get from baking under the sun. Pale skin fashion reigned among men and women.
In 1901, the Lions of Women used whitening Cuticura Soap and Ointment. Skin whitening soaps, 500 years ago, were marketed as "Antiseptic Soaps" with toxic mercury and hydroquinone in them.
Lemon and dandelion have been used in skin whitening recipes, and toxic arsenic and mercury were rampant in creams as they bleached the skin of innocent users.
It Got Ugly.
The 1950s recorded casualties from using skin whitening soaps with mercury, carboxylic acid and phenol-hydroquinone. Despite the ban, this soap emerged as the Intra-Africa national brand. It is believed that for the past 50 years, over US$100 billion worth was sold in the African continent alone!
In 2002, the first recorded case of mercury poisoning from the use of skin lightening cream was a 34-yr old Chinese woman. In 2005, almost a dozen bleaching skin products with mercury made in the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong and China were apprehended by the US FDA.
Some of these were Miss Key Crema Blanqueadora, Santa cream, and Dermaline skin cream.
On another note, in some nations like Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Brazil and India, bleaching skin has created an enormous societal pressure where chances of being hired for a job was better if lighter-skinned.
It started to become a controversial topic, and stirred issues of racial supremacy, self-identity, on top of the dangers of bleaching skin.
But it was a big market.
Since the 1990s, skin whitening soaps, lotions, creams and pills sales has increased exponentially especially in Asia, because of the growth of the middle class population. It’s worth $432 million in India and $7 billion in China. It grew bigger as endorsed by the celebrities looked up as beauty icons, became a household trend.
While the tanning fashion came into the picture for white westerners, the other side of the world preferred skin whitening.
So, Can Bleaching Skin Be Safe?
We cannot blame the modern society for criticizing skin whitening. What transpired in history is not easy to forget, and the quest for whiter beauty is still misinterpreted for racial alteration and disapproved for health hazards.
Therefore, we hope the same but open-minded modern culture also sees a major transformation in the way skin whitening is being applied nowadays – as a corrective measure for hyperpigmentation and dark spots. After all, who wants dark acne scars or dark underarms?
The beauty industry needs a makeover. The good news is, there are skin whiteners without the dangers of hydroquinone, mercury or steroid. Whitening, lightening, or bleaching skin or dark spots can NOW be safe. Gone are the days for mercury-based products, though there are a few scrupulous sellers who are selfish for the money.
Still, a majority desires lighter skin because of their background and tradition. They feel better that way. It’s their culture, and not to imitate another race’s color.