The paler the skin, the higher the class
Pale skin has had an exciting evolution. Greek and Roman women used to do anything possible to whiten their face skin; the whiter their face skin was, the more beautiful they were considered. Sun tanning was out of the question. By using lead paints and chalks women put themselves in great danger because that ancient beauty treatment could cause death by slow poisoning. It was only too late when this was discovered.
The obsesssion with white, "porcelain"- like skin evolved beyond cosmetic reasons, becoming more related to social classes. Skin color became that visible definer separating working classes from the ruling classes. A tanned skin disclosed a life of outdoor labor; those wishing to be accepted in high-life had to conform to this requirement: white, not tanned skin. The paler one's skin, the higher the class. To achieve this, men and women had no limits; any method, safe or not, was used, as being pale was extremely important.
Asia: white skin is considered a symbol of femininity
The tanning obsession and later, the sunless tanning craze took over the world. Still, there are white "spots" on the worldwide tanning roadmap. Asian people are not so excited with golden skin. And this has a lot to do with their millenary culture, somehow reluctant to these trends.
What do Asian females have and others don't? There are few differences to take into account. Teams of scientists and dermatologists who have studied eight Asian cities (Sendai, Japan; Seoul, South Korea; Guangzhou, Shanghai and Harbin, China; Calicut and New Delhi, India; and Manila, Philippines (representative of Malay skin) have some interesting findings to reveal:
- Hyperpigmentation (dark spots) has an earlier onset than wrinkles and laxity (loss of firmness) on Asian skin (compared to Caucasians).
- The Japanese have the lightest skin tone; thus, Japanese women have low melanin and skin redness. The Indians have the darkest skin tone, and therefore high melanin content and skin redness.
- Asian skin has a better behavior during cooler months; because of reduced sun exposure, Asian women's skin has better biomechanical properties such as elasticity and structures (collagen).
- Skin becomes yellowish with age and this is more visible in Chinese and Korean skin than other racial groups.
- Japanese skin has the best condition (least deterioration with age), while Indian skin has the worst.
White, whiter, the whitest - this may be lethal
In Asian countries, pale skin has had the same significance for centuries: sophistication, innocence, feminity and high social standard. That is why Asian women have always been looking for skin care products to whiten their skin. They used to prepare "skin whiteners", by grinding pearl from seashells into powder and swallowing it. Today's cosmetics are safer and more reasonable. New skin whitening products appear every year, posing less dangers to women's health or life.
Still, these whitening lotions, serums, correctors and essences may involve risks worth taking into account. According to Asian dermatologists, the danger comes from mercury. If safety allowance limits are exceeded, mercury (the best known whitening agent) may cause death. Unfortunately, some products include high doses of mercury, which are damaging to the central nervous system and the kidneys, and especially to the development of the brain in a foetus or a child.
So, pale skin is not the happiest choice for an Asian woman, after all. Neither is dark skin. So, what should they do? Using proper skincare products and sunscreeen (if exposed to real sun or indoor session) is the best choice for life, not only for Asian women but also for anybody who cares about skin and health.