Wandering the aisles of the local supermarket, I came across a section of personal products that promotes a physical attribute desired in the tropics: White skin. Many Thais avoid direct sunlight as much as possible (shielding their face with umbrellas, purses, newspapers and if nothing else is handy, their hands), as it is fashionable to have light skin. Dark-skinned Thais are considered “country” or “outdoor” people, which indicates a sort of class-consciousness: Working indoors reflects a higher status job than working in the sun. Models have exceptionally light skin, which helps drive the desire for a lighter dermis.
The supermarket shelves stock such items as Healthy White Lotion, Whitening Sun Protection, UV Whitening Milk Repair, Whitening Cream, Nivea Bye-Bye Melanin, Pond’s Flawless White Facial Foam, Whitening Deep Repair (for men), and for the ecologically-minded shopper, Tea Tree Natural Whitening Complex.
We humans are so humorous in our quest for what we consider the ultimate physical appearance. Next to the whitening lotions and creams are the “Protective Tanning” oils—for westerners, of course, who want to be darker like the Thais.