Craving for 'porcelain skin' leaves Thai women injured by flesh whiteners

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The young Thai women in the dermatologist's waiting room looked like the victims of some fairy-tale curse for vanity. They hide their faces behind oversized sunglasses. Their faces are as mottled as rotten fruit and the damage may be irreversible.

And all because of their search for a porcelain complexion. For the faddish whitening creams they slapped on daily have triggered a nasty reaction.

Fair skin is relentlessly promoted across Asia as the ideal, but a raft of black market products are now having a devastating impact.

High-end cosmetics are marketed by film stars and touted as the way to achieve that Western look. But few can afford them and instead opt for cheap imitations. The results have been devastating for thousands of women. "These girls are desperate. They believed the claims of some movie star and then overused shoddy products, ending up with very dark patches that are almost impossible to reverse," said Dr Wichai Hongcharu, a dermatologist at Bangkok's St Louis hospital. "When they learn it will stay like that for ever, many get depressed or even suicidal."

The quickest results come from either mercury-chloride or hydroquinone, which was banned for cosmetic use by the European Union five years ago, but is sold across Asia.