Why Do Some People in the Philippines Use Skin Whitening Techniques?

Some people in the Philippines practice skin whitening because pale skin is historically associated with wealth in Asian culture. Laborers worked outside in the sun while the aristocracy stayed inside and became paler. This wealth and royalty association still remains in the Philippines.

Skin whitening, also known as skin lightening and skin bleaching, is the process of using chemical products to lighten skin tone and brighten the skin. White skin is an advantage in the Philippines. Filipino movie stars are pale and advertise skin lightening products regularly. In Asian culture as a whole, it is considered beautiful to have pale skin. A survey by a London market research firm called Synovate discovered that four out of 10 women in Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines use a skin lightening cream.

The idea stems from the ancient Chinese, who viewed white skin as a sign of nobility and elegance and even used the term "white jade" to describe pale skin. The tanned, poor laborer is also comparable to colonized people, who tended to develop an inferiority complex as their culture was replaced by the culture of their colonizers. The colonized people mimicked the ones who colonized them because their original culture was defeated.

Spain further instilled the desire for pale skin in Filipino culture. Centuries of colonization by Europeans had given Spaniards a desire to look whiter, so they passed on this cultural attitude when they invaded the Philippines.