Skin whitening is a thing. To be honest, it is a HUGE thing over here in the Philippines. I didn't think stuff like this actually existed except in the rumors about Michael Jackson and such.
At first, I started noticing the older Asian lady's at the gym with really pale faces and necks, but having darker skinned arms and legs. The more I paid attention, the more I because curious as to why. Then finally I ran across some info about the color of skin being a status symbol or a direct reflection of wealth.
As you already know in America, most people like the tanner or darker skin. Having dark skin, makes it appear that the person can afford a vacation in a tropical location or laying in the sun all day instead of being inside working. It's became completely normal for people to get spray tans or visit the tanning bed as often as possible to keep that sun kissed look all year around.
In Asia, however the paler and whiter you are, the better. They associate this with being rich or having a high economic status. Being tan in Asia,is a sign that you're from a poor family or a working family because tan skin is associated with those who have to work outside in the sun all day while those with lighter skin can afford to stay inside and out of the sun.
This way of thinking has lead to many products here in Asia that you really don't see anywhere else in the world. There are skin whitening agents being added to many of the personal hygiene products. You have to be on the look out when you shopping. You can find them in anything from soaps, lotions, baby wash, and even deodorants. I bought some whitening body wash by mistake once, I won't do it again.
I have added a few pics of them below as examples.
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