Can a woman be considered more attractive in Latin America than in India? The traditional perception of feminine beauty varies from country to country and from generation to generation. Stereotypes include a Bengali desire for long black hair; a Latin American desire for a curvaceous body; a Korean desire for big round eyes; and an African desire for a healthy weight. While these stereotypes of an ideal woman still hold true, globalization is homogenizing beauty standards across cultures through modes of media and communication. The beauty industry is booming across the globe with sales of over 532 billon dollars. This makes it one of the largest creative industries in the world in comparison to the fashion industry which has revenues of about 386 billion dollars. Multinational corporations are creating their own ideals of beauty through branding and advertisements. From the past decades to modern day, media has been emotionally manipulating its audience into buying different brands by advertising desirable celebrities in luxurious and romantic settings living a great quality of life. These celebrities almost always share the same characteristic: fair skin. The increasing rate of globalization through media has stimulated the converging of beauty standards between societies around the world.
Historically, beauty products were only made available for the higher class who had the income to afford the luxurious items. This all changed in the nineteenth century after the industrial revolution made it possible to manufacture the desired beauty products in larger volumes, often made with cheaper material, to make them affordable for the general public. Advancements in transportation enabled industries to market their products beyond their lands. The success and growth of these beauty industries were not as dramatic in the beginning because cultural reservations discouraged women from using colored cosmetics. However, by the time the 1920s rolled around, women had a lot more freedom to express themselves so makeup became a lot more popular. More women went to college to get an education and joined the working force to earn money that allowed them to buy more makeup products. During the 1920s, the makeup industry became highly successful in European countries, the United States and Japan. In the 1950s when Europe and Japan were recovering from the destructions of World War II, the United States accounted for more than half of the beauty industry. However, it did not take long for Europe to catch up to the United States and by 1967, it became the second largest global beauty market.
With western countries dominating the Global Beauty Market, their standards of beauty became ideal around the world. United States’ beauty pageants, movies, and television shows became globalized and the cast mostly consisted of white actors and actresses. This heavily influenced Asian and South Asian countries that have a history of being overpowered by the White population. European colonialism suppressed Asian countries for centuries and sabotaged them to believe the white race was the superior race. White skin represented the elites whereas tanned and dark skin represented the working class. Although colonialism ended, the impression of white superiority is alive and well to this day.
In the South Asian countries of Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, girls are taught to stay out of the sun to avoid getting a tan from a very early age. During arranged marriages, South Asian males prefer females with lighter skin because it symbolizes beauty, wealth and power. Therefore, the majority of the female population who have darker skin seek out whitening beauty products. Fair and Lovely is one of them. This skin lightening cream is sold in almost every store—from small shops in the corner to large city malls.
South Asian countries are not the only ones who value lighter skinned people. The whitening phenomenon in Asia has created a multi-billion-dollars cosmetic industry. Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans are also bombarded with magazine advertisements and television commercial proclaiming the benefits of possessing lighter skin. It is very difficult to buy an Asian skin product that does not contain a skin whitening agent. Today, there is a growing concern about whether this fascination with fair skin is becoming an obsession—one that poses great health risks. Medical professionals fear that women are unaware of the dangerous consequences of the chemicals they are exposing their skin to by using products with skin bleaching properties. In the year 2002, 435 women were tested for mercury poisoning from using skin whitening cosmetics in Hong Kong, and from the group, a 31-year-old woman was hospitalized. Along with mercury, whitening products have been discovered to contain lead, acidic chemicals, and steroids which can all permanently damage the skin.
Despite existing movements towards the acceptance of all races and cultures around the world, changes cannot be made if the majority of popular movies, television shows, and commercials continue to idealize white actors and actresses. In the year 2019, there are women and men from around the world who still associate white skin with success. This view is not only destroying their self-confidence but also their health.