Recently I purchased some sunblock cream in Thailand. When I checked the ingredients, I saw that they contained a whitening agent. Since I did not want to be whitened or bleached, I checked some other brands – same story – all contained whitening agents.
I went to a couple more drugstores, and finally in the third one I found an imported sun block which did not contain any skin bleach.
I have known since a long time that most Thai women are obsessed with being as white as possible. They keep an array of whitening creams in their bathroom, and you can often spot them on the street. Their bleached faces look much whiter than the rest of their bodies – kind of a ghostly look if you ask me.
But the Thai men love the white look. If you ever watch any TV commercials in Thailand, you would notice that the female actors are all very light skinned.
Or look at the models in a Thai fashion show – almost all of them are very light skinned – by intention and with cosmetic help.
You can watch the Thai women riding on their omnipresent scooters in the blazing sun, but they are bundled up in jackets and even gloves to avoid getting any tan.
You will never see a Thai woman lying on the beach, that’s only for tourists. And of course there are no tanning beds in Thailand..
The Thais feel that the white look is high class, and the dark skin reveals a lower class person who maybe works out in the fields – a peasant in other words.
Thai men don’t feel obliged to become unnaturally whiter, but they do prefer their women to have the snow white look.
In stark contrast, millions of foreigners come to Thailand every year to roast themselves on the beaches and get a deep tan. Their sunblock contains agents which make the skin darker – just the opposite of the Thai sunblocks.
And then the visitors return to their home countries where they proudly display their tan, and all their friends are duly impressed.
After all, in the western world the tanned look indicates a person who has traveled, who can enjoy the good life on a beach in far-away exotic places and who has the means to afford such vacations. It’s the complete opposite of the Thai way of looking at it. The Thais want to be white and the foreigners want to be dark.
The whitening craze is not the only area where the Thais want to look like Westerners. The other mega craze is plastic surgery for the nose, (along with eyes and other parts) to make them look more like Caucasian noses. Well, Japanese noses are also popular, I have been told.
The Thais generally have low nose bridges or no nose bridges. Countless Thai women have artificial plastic nose bridges and they are convinced that this makes them more beautiful and desirable.
Next is the eyes. They also have to be turned into Caucasian style eyes. Thailand is famous for the good looks of their women, however they want to look more like Americans or Europeans.
In all honesty I have to admit that the Koreans outdo the Thais in the cosmetics craze. The latest mega industry in Korea is cosmetics and plastic surgery for men. Yes, foundation, eye liners, nose and eye jobs, the works.
But then again the Thais outdo the Koreans with their overwhelming number of sex change operations.
There are more transgenders in Thailand (they are called ‘ladyboys’ or ‘kathoeys’ here) than anywhere else in the world – about half a million.
It’s a mystery to me why everybody wants to be different. Thai women want to be white. Western women want to be dark.
And the Thai men want to become women. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
Even my Thai wife asked me if she should get a nose job. I told her that if I wanted a woman with a western nose, I would have stayed in America, and that I like her nose just as it is.
Luckily that put an end to this discussion. However her girlfriends still pester her about the latest plastic surgery fashion.
Talking about relationships in Thailand – there are tens of thousands of cross cultural relationships here, and most foreign men find themselves in relationships with dark skinned Thai women.
They have no problems with the darker skin tone, they actually find it attractive. The Thai men however go for the white look, so there is no competition between the Thai men and the foreign men.
It does help the self esteem of the naturally attractive Thai women when they realize that their western partners do not expect them to be a Thai version of Michael Jackson’s cosmetic and surgical transformation.
It all seems quite strange to me. Thai women are known for their natural attractive features, but they all want to change them. Maybe you have to be a woman to understand this.
The author, Shama Kern, has been living in Thailand for well over a decade and is happily married to his Thai wife.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.