Most Thai women want to have light-colored skin. They often stay out of the sun. When they have to walk outside, they wear a lot of sunscreen on their faces and wear jackets so that their arms don’t get dark. Many of them also use skin whiteners. Skin whiteners are lotions that include chemicals that make skin lighter. People say they’re very dangerous.
I don’t want my skin to be any whiter than it already is and I definately don’t want skin cancer, so I have to be very careful when purchasing soaps and lotions. Almost all of the lotions sold in stores have skin whiteners in them. Today I saw some whitening lip gloss in a store. It seems strange that anyone would want to whiten their lips. Especially since so many women here wear bright red lipstick.
Anyway, my students think it’s really funny that so many farang want darker skin. They can’t understand why anyone would want to lay outside in the heat in order to get a tan, go to a tanning salon, or use artificial tanning lotions.
Back when I watched videos for a living at Library Conversions, I watched a video about why Americans want to have tanned skin. It was once desirable to have very white skin in America because it meant that you weren’t outside working on a farm. After our society became more urban, having a tan showed that you were wealthy enough to go on vacations and engage in leisurely activities. Now we associate suntans with relaxation and an active, healthy lifestyle. I bring this up because when I first heard that Thai people prefer white skin, I thought it was because they wanted to look European. Now that I’m here, I don’t think that’s the case. Maybe Thais equate pale skin with white collar-type jobs and suntans with manual labor. Maybe it has something to do with the status of different ethnic groups within Thailand. I really don’t know.