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Women in Philippines Are Risking Their Lives Just To Have Whiter Skin

Mark Andrew

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Walk into any grocery store or pharmacy in the Philippines and it’s always a guarantee that you’ll find them prominently displayed in the shelves. We are, of course, talking about skin whitening products ranging from bath soaps, body lotions, facial creams, and even capsules.

As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also easy to spot cosmetic clinics across the country, offering interested clients with skin lightening treatments.

So why the obsession to having a pale complexion, you ask? Well there are actually a lot of factors involved.

In a Sapiens article written by University of the Philippines assistant anthropology professor Gideon Lasco, reasons can vary from person to person but some admit that having lighter skin is generally considered more attractive and could even mean better employment opportunities.

Case in point, a 20-year-old woman who calls herself Laarni said that her light skin helped her win a beauty pageant. Currently a tourism student, she’s hoping to be a flight attendant someday. Again, skin color plays a big deal in that as well, according to her.

She said about getting her dream job:

“Of course, you need to meet the height requirement and a college degree. But when they look at you and you have fair, beautiful skin, you already have a big advantage.”

Unfortunately, Laarni isn’t alone in this mindset. In fact, whiter skin is considered by many as a standard of beauty and success.

The problem persists not only in the Philippines but also across Africa and Asia where whitening products are often being heavily marketed to buyers.

And the bad news here, of course, is that some of these whitening products and treatments are actually harmful.


In Rwanda, for example, authorities implemented a ban on skin whitening and bleaching products after some of them were found containing hydroquinone and mercury, which are often linked to kidney damage and cancer.

Watch this short documentary to learn more:

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