Earlier this year, an Indian product called Clean and Dry Intimate Wash introduced, or reintroduced, us to the horrifying necromancy that is vulval bleaching. That product, with its attending SNL-esque commercial, was roundly derided for being terrible, but the world has yet to hear the end of bleached vulvas — companies that offer such intimate skin-whitening treatments have had more success across southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand.
The Guardian reports that a new product in Thailand promising to make women's vulvas "fairer within four weeks" is gaining traction in a country where fairer skin signifies a certain class status, as it gives the impression that someone hasn't spent a lifetime working in the rice paddies under the blazing sun. The Thai idiom, moreover, is riddled with expressions denigrating darker skin, such as the phrase "black like a crow."
In addition to cosmetics aimed at lightening skin on the face, body, and armpits (ticklish), an array of pills and diet supplements claim to provide an even more dramatic bleaching effect. It shouldn't come as a galloping shock at this point that the skin-lightening industry is big business across the region, and is expected, according to The Guardian to reach the $2 billion mark this year, health risks notwithstanding.
Health risks did you say? Pleasant and soothing as it may seem, a lot of bleaching products (excepting the bigger brands from Nivea and Lactadyd Intimate) contain substances like hydroquinone and mercury, both of which can lead to permanent discoloration or even kidney damage. The expansion of the bleaching urge into underpants all over southeast Asia, however, shows that the trend isn't slackening, and companies have high hopes that an as-yet untapped male market can similarly have its greatest cultural insecurities exploited sometime very soon.
Image via Micha Fleuren/Shutterstock.