Ads In Hong Kong Pressure Women To Have Lighter Skin

Women in Hong Kong are being pressured to "whiten up" by advertisements that feature Caucasian models and promote skin lightening products.

Clothing stores such as Prada, Burberry, and Zara use their American and European ads featuring white models in Asia, and according to Royce Yuen, chair of Hong Kong's Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies, it's not just so they can reuse the same ads. "I think it's a conscious effort that they are featuring Caucasian models," says Yuen, "it gives people the impression that they're more international and more premium." A survey found that 38 percent of women in Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan used skin-whitening chemicals and every major cosmetics company offers a whitening cream. Many of the creams contain hydroquinone, a pigment-altering agent that is linked to cancer and may cause liver and kidney damage. The chemical is banned in the U.K., but Virginia P'an, a business analyst and CEO of China Pacific Partners, still claims the ideal of lighter skin is "basically harmless." "A good part of Asia is still an agrarian society. Being whiter-skinned shows you aren't a laborer or a farm worker," she says. "These are cultural trends that are not going to shift overnight." [Women's E News]