On the other hand, skin bleaching products are a lot sketchier. Aside from skin whitening being its only known feature, it's also usually sold outside of beauty counters or drugstores and typically come with a very cheap price tag. This is because aside from lacking the proper lab testings and medical approvals, it also uses a more inexpensive yet deadly ingredient to deliver skin lightening: mercury. This chemical has been proven to be lethal in the smallest dosage and can cause skin cancer, blood poisoning, and even cause danger to your future pregnancies.
In hindsight, it's clear why skin bleaching, in contrast to brightening, draws in many people. Brightening procedures and products can be quite the investment and the accessibility and affordability of skin bleaching products have become its leverage. But vanity aside, there's also one more thing to consider about why skin bleaching is such an appealing option.
Historically, Asian countries have favoured those with lighter skin, especially since the hue of the complexion used to define societal hierarchy. In fact, this still translates today. Whether in mainstream media, pop culture or just in daily life, skin colour is a factor in setting first impressions. This makes a quick and more affordable approach to lightening one's skin — despite its dangers — look like a clear escape route to make the odds work for one's favour. And for something that has been embedded in our cultures for hundreds of years, it is clear why it's still difficult to shift perceptions on the matter even when the other side of the world is already particularly vocal about it.
Asia's slow but steady approach to shifting beauty perceptions
There's no denying that there is still a lot to be challenged when it comes to Eastern beauty standards. Still, it's interesting to see that some brands and personalities are finally taking the lead in changing this landscape. In the past year, there has been a notable shift on how Asian ads have been geared towards promoting self-confidence and taking charge of your own definition of beauty rather than the simple message of deep versus light skin. There are still blunders along the way, but hey, that's a vital step in learning.
People are also becoming more cautious of beauty ingredients and terminologies. This results in skin brightening being treated more like a potential side-effect than an end goal. What's good about this is that we are learning not to antagonise brightening while still not being dismissive of our own natural beauty. Of course, the lows on societal perception of beauty is still yet to be overturned on a large scale. But if each of us learns to accept our beauty as our own and to prioritise our health should, then we are definitely on the right path to fixing this narrative.