The obsession with skin-whitening is apparently an exclusively Asian thing. Recent friendly banter with a few beauty honchos, including Jean Michel Karam, CEO of Ioma, affirms this suspicion.
When the French beauty brand arrived in Singapore late last year, in its plans was to specially formulate a line of whitening products to address the whitening needs of its Asian clientele. This collection, the brand decided, would only be made available here in Asia and nowhere else. The reason, as Karam jokingly puts it, is simple: “The Europeans only want a tan!”
Statistics and research do back up his observation. Synovate, a leading UK research firm, recently valued the whitening market in Asia at US$18 billion — a sizable figure that's not wholly unexpected, as the belief that beauty equates to having lighter skin is deeply ingrained in Asian culture.
In the past, fair skin was associated with one's standing within society. Lighter skin was an indication of one's wealth, and therefore ability to spend one's days indoors, rather than eking out a living in the sun. Though this conception is grossly outdated today, the quest to be fair remains.
According to Clé de Peau Beauté, the trend of pale-looking skin perpetuated by K-Pop stars fuels the desire to be fair even further. But in this, the brand has also noticed a shift in consumer demand.
While the concern remains, Asian women also want their whitening regime to offer them other benefits, says one Clé de Peau Beauté representative: “Beyond just wanting a fair complexion, women now also want brighter and more radiant skin that emanates from within.”
The Japanese brand aims to address these multiple needs via its Brightening Serum Supreme. Research leading to this serum has revealed that dark spots are not only a result of external factors (such as the sun), but also internal — caused from within.
This new formula, infused with the brand's Spot Defense Complex corrects this by regulating the overall melanin level of the skin. It prevents the breakdown of heparin sulphate (part of the basement membrane that controls factors entering the epidermis from the dermis). Instead, what the complex does is to stimulate the production of heparin sulphate in order to prevent elements that cause dark spots from reaching the dermis.
The complex also targets areas where spots form, rejuvenates the stratum corneum and promotes the growth of illuminating cells to give you a glow from within.
This shift in consumer expectation — and in turn, the new measure of whitening standards — has not gone unnoticed by beauty giant SK-II. Taro Yamaguchi of SK-II Global Scientific Communications confirms that while the Asian woman is concerned about skin-whitening, she also wants her treatments to deliver an even and brighter skin tone, as well as radiance from within.
Enter the latest addition to SK-II's Whitening range — the Cellumination Aura Essence. It boasts a formulation that contains ume (Japanese apricot) extract, the star ingredient in Soft Aura White, SK-II's new active complex. Clinical studies conducted by the brand have shown that after weeks of usage, the Cellumination Aura Essence increases skin's luminosity effectively.
New whitening standards, however, are not limited to include just brightening and improved radiance. Clarins recently emphasised the importance of hydration. Its product development research revealed that hydration influences skin's ability to reflect light. Thus, to achieve fair, luminous skin, one must also cultivate a disciplined moisturising regime.
The French brand's answer to this is its hydrating day-and-night duo — the Clarins White Plus Total Luminescent Brightening Hydrating Emulsion and the Smoothing Brightening Night Cream. The former is an oil-free emulsion that contains hyaluronic acid of low molecular weight, which promotes fairness and good skin translucency. The latter is an intensive cream that takes advantage of the skin's regeneration process at night, reviving fairness and injecting a rosy luminescence. This way, your skin enjoys intensive brightening (and hydrating) all day.
While we only have space to highlight some of our favourite products, it is clear that whitening skincare ranges have, as a whole, evolved from being just about whitening to addressing our want for brighter, healthier skin.
Tips from the Docs
It's important to read the ingredients of the whitening product before you make the purchase. Stick with products and brands that are reputable. Well-known manufacturers have more money behind their active ingredients and product testing. — Dr Karen Soh, Privé Clinic
Ensuring good protection from the sun by either avoiding it or using a good sunscreen of at least SPF50 will help in achieving a fair complexion and preventing pigmentation. Going for regular facials to exfoliate the skin is a good idea as it allows the active ingredients to penetrate into the skin better. — Dr Dennis Kwan, Dermacare