Chinese society describes the ideal woman as Bái fù mei (white, rich, and beautiful): celebrities on the advertisement do have the so-wanted white skin and the European milky complexion remains THE model to follow. Synonym of social success, white skin is deeply linked with the personal investment in cosmetics, in extension with wealth but also modernity and own cleanliness. Does not all TV series heroes be rich … and white? With this ideal, tanned skin appears as a marker of fieldwork, by the extension of poverty … and dirt; a harsh image that transforms skin color into a social rank.
The culture of skin whitening
This white skin ideal grew with China’s exposure to Western and Japanese cultures, but not only: it was reinforced by the craze for the South Korean K-pop, where singers invariably have a snowy complexion. Korean Cosmetics La Neige is a well-known trademark in China, part of its success comes from the use of a French brand name that guarantees to consumers a certain level of quality.
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Despite the health risk, skin bleaching with the help of cosmetics has become more and more common. Luxury brands imported into China adapted: between the bestseller, Chanel’s CC Cream sold in France and China’s one, no packaging difference, but the same shade – on the trade’s universal gradient – will significantly lighten the skin.
Skin whitening through a mobile app
This social aspiration got well understood by phones brands and other mobile applications: most Chinese phones now automatically retouch selfies by whitening the skin of users, brightening their hair, and enlarging their eyes, a function that does not fail to Huawei P10, the latest edition of Chinese brand Huawei and considered as the cutting edge of the mobile photography’s technology. This is a statement for everyone: pictures posted on social networks must be retouched, at least to improve the light and the sharpness, if not with skin whitening.
To go further, the application Pitu excessively retouch selfies by adding some filters and cute gifs like cat ears, pig nose, or why not snowflakes and cherry petals. A spot on the nose, yellow teeth? The functions of Pitu make it possible to erase small defects, including slimming or lengthening the body shape for users full of expectations.
We came into a real run to perfection in the end, with an idealized doll face: rounder and brighter eyes, milky complexion, thin face, raised cheekbones, light-colored hair, and silkier appearance. Most of all, the slightest skin defect was wiped away with the rubber function on the app. Users feel relief on the appearance they convey to their social circle: we are now touching this notion of “holding the face” deeply settled in the Chinese culture and an essential key to remembers: it.
Skin whitening, a feminine concern only?
Should the completion of the skin only be women matter? We’ve been asked a group of young post-graduate students on this topic.
Pyy * confirms: “Yes, I think women take it more seriously than men face.” When asked if this is a beauty criterion expected for Chinese women, his classmate Peng answers circle: “I believe 60% of boys still prefer girls with white skin, for the others it is not an important criterion. “
Wang chuckles before adding: “Yī bái zhē bǎi chǒu, this Chinese proverb means that if a person is ugly but has white skin, its level raises!”
The only girl in the group, Lulu does not agree. “I do not care, I enjoy getting brown during the summer. Sun-tanned skin is healthy, it means you go out. I do think more like Westerners who like to sunbathe. I do believe what really matters is the interactions you may have with a person. It’s useless to change yourself with plastic surgery or cosmetics to get more attractive, what matters is to get along with the person, then she will love you as you are.” And her boyfriend nod: “Be yourself!”
White skin, also a beauty criterion for men
However, Chinese men do not feel as unconcerned as they claim it: the white skin goal reaches both genders.
Xiadan remembers: “Last year, a colleague went on a mountain hike and got a huge sunburn on his face, his colleagues teased him the whole week he came back because he “turned black”.”
Quickly is the amalgam made between tanned skin and black skin: there is indeed no Chinese word in the daily language to bring up shades between bronzed, tanned, olive, and dark skin. You’re white or you’re black, no middle to offer!
Wang tells us about: “Beauty is an important criterion in the business world, customers will indeed want to talk to a handsome partner, not to someone ugly.”
And his friend Pyy to do “It’s true, if I see a man whiter than me walking in the street, I’ll find him beautiful, I’ll envy him a little.”
Professional model, Liu knows this physical criterion very well: his shooting’s pictures will be specifically retouched to whiten his skin before being published. He himself never makes a selfie without the “whitening” function, and every evening uses a scrub from French brand Biotherm to eradicate all imperfections.
Every week Xiaoqian and her husband put on their face a Japanese brand hydroquinone whitening mask. In this impatient society, cosmetics effects must be visible straight away, explaining the use of aggressive products that often exceed the devices of brands themselves. Other suppliers will have fewer scruples by adding mercury to cosmetics, causing skin lesions and cancers.
Let’s say that the umbrella market, as well as sun creams and UV protections market, may not decrease. On the other hand, Facekini’s fashion and the integral combination remains instead a marginal practice that disconcerts bathers: who stops the run to whiten?
* The name of the respondents has been modified.
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