Growing up in California, many of the locals’ skin colour is tan due to hanging out at the beach and the sunny weather all year round. In the US, advertisements connect beauty and success with a darker skin colour, other than white.
Those who wish to be tan, or brown, spend money on products to keep their skin colour tan and brown. People who have tans portray an image that they have money, as they can afford to go on vacation, relax on the beach, while getting a nice tan.
But in other countries, like Thailand, India and the Philippines, many seek to be white, or lighter, as this is promoted as a social status. Cambodia is one of several countries exposed to a variety of skin whitening products.
In these parts of the world, being lighter skinned is considered beautiful, successful and of a higher status in society. Many Cambodians believe that if you have dark skin, then you are exposed to the sun and work as a farmer in the countryside.
Having white skin portrays one as having money, and not having to work outdoors, or not having to work at all.
Young Cambodian girls are influenced by advertisements and try to transform their natural skin colour of brown to white. This is another type of cosmetic surgery, without going under the knife, but it is still dangerous, and can be deadly.
Many skin lightening creams contain illegal compounds, like high doses of steroids that can damage your health. Some creams also contain hydroquinone, a bleaching agent that is banned from use in cosmetics.
Another dangerous chemical found in the skin lightening creams is mercury. Mercury can damage the kidneys and nervous system. You can even be exposed to mercury poisoning just living in the households of the individuals who use the cream.
Symptoms of mercury toxicity include headaches, irritability, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, memory loss, numbness, insomnia, depression, weight loss and tingling in the hands, feet and lips area.
These harmful skin whitening creams can help you feel better for a short period of time, but in the long term, some can be very dangerous to your health. Our skin comes in many shades of colour.
Margaret Wolfe Hungerford stated that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This quote means that people have different opinions of what beauty is. If you think white skin is more beautiful then dark skin, this is your view, and you are entitled to your own opinion.
Is it worth jeopardising your life just to feel beautiful? It’s a fallacy that others make you feel beautiful if you don’t truly believe that you are beautiful.
We, as Cambodians, are dark skinned people, and it’s because our ancestors lived in tropical regions.
Accept who you are and what you look like, and don’t change your appearance to please others. Real beauty comes from the inside, your heart, and not the outside, as in the colour of your skin.
The Social Agenda with Soma Norodom
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.