My name is Joseph and I have a problem with third-world countries’ marketing campaigns. Growing up in the Philippines, it was common to see “Skin Whitening” advertisements in commercials and billboards. In fact, it is still advertised in supermarkets or convenience stores all over the country. With products ranging from lotions to soaps, somehow being “whiter” was a “good thing.” These campaigns perpetuate that a lighter complexion makes consumers more beautiful. And unfortunately, this mindset embedded itself in the Filipino beauty standards. Given that the Philippines has a strong colonial legacy, remnants of colonial mentality still linger in society and is reinforced with these kinds of marketing campaigns.
Examples of Skin Whitening advertisements:
The rhetoric from these advertisements alone are majorly problematic. Companies are conforming to society’s pre-existing beliefs rather than changing them for the better. For one, they just prove how colorism is prevalent: treating people with darker complexions differently than those who have lighter ones. Filipinos associate lighter complexions with a higher social and economic status. That is, if someone is dark-skinned, he or she is associated with being in the lower-bracket of society and would be treated poorly. The whiter a person is, he or she has a greater chance of finding more job opportunities.
The Problems of Skin Whitening
Skin whitening is very harmful to the skin. It was found in a study that some skin whitening or bleaching products contain mercury - a very toxic substance to humans. These brands will not show you any of its harmful effects, which makes it even more dangerous because people would think that it’s safe. However, even if people are informed of its risks, people would still use them. Skin whitening consumers just want to be “beautiful.” They will do anything and everything to fit that standard, which explains why the Skin Whitening industry is still booming. Kids still get teased for having dark complexions by classmates, cousins, and relatives. This skin whitening problem is not only present in the Philippines, but it also persists in other countries like India, Ghana, and Indonesia to name a few.
Another problem that skin whitening poses is that it just reinforces colorism in media and society. The way the Filipinos think about beauty translates to media. Majority of the celebrities in the Philippines have whiter complexions. Dubbing the term, mestiza or mestizo, people with mixed White heritage is deemed to be more “beautiful” in society. When you turn on the TV, chances are most of the actors on screen are Whiter than the average complexion. When the majority of celebrities have mixed heritages and they are shown on numerous platforms, they start dictating the beauty standards. Everyone wants to be like them - fairer and more reminiscent of Western beauty standards. In the hopes of making consumers feel more beautiful and conform to beauty standards, taking glutathione pills or bleaching practices would certainly “do the trick” because if they don’t, then they would be blocked from certain privileges that society has to offer.
Every person has a responsibility whether or not to take part in companies that promote these kinds of campaigns. There’s nothing morally wrong with skin-whitening products; I just take issue with the psychological effects that these advertisements bring to its audience. I believe that people should embrace their skin tones and celebrate them rather than harming themselves to conforming to a social norm. I believe that companies should be more aware of their impact on society. And, I believe that change needs to occur in an industry that induces a toxic mentality.
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