Greek and Roman women did everything possible to whiten their face; the whiter their face was, the more beautiful they were considered. Sun tanning was out of the question. By using lead paints and chalks women put themselves in great danger because that ancient beauty treatment could cause death by slow poisoning. It was only too late when this was discovered.
The obsesssion with white, "porcelain"- like skin evolved beyond cosmetic reasons, becoming more related to social standards. Skin color became that visible definer separating working classes from the ruling classes. A tanned skin disclosed a life of outdoor labor; those wishing to be accepted in the top drawer had to conform to this requirement: to be white, pale skinned. The paler one's skin, the higher the class. To become pale skinned, men and women knew no limits; any method, safe or not, was used, as being pale skinned was extremely important.
The tanning obsession and later, the sunless tanning craze took over the world. Still, there are white "spots" on the worldwide tanning roadmap. Asian people are not so excited about golden skin. And this has a lot to do with their millenary culture, somehow reluctant to these trends.
In Asian countries, pale skin had the same significance for centuries: it meant sophistication, innocence, feminity and high social standard. That is why Asian women have always been looking for skin care products to make their skin white. They prepared "skin whiteners", by grinding pearl from seashells into powder and swallowing it. Today's cosmetics are safer and more reasonable. New skin whitening products appear every year, posing less dangers to women's health or life.
Still, these whitening lotions, serums, correctors and essences may involve risks worth taking into account. It is always dangerous to interfere into natures order, espesially systematically and using rather sweeping. According to Asian dermatologists, the danger comes from mercury. If safety allowance limits are exceeded, mercury (the best known whitening agent) may cause death. Unfortunately, some products include high doses of mercury, which are damaging to the central nervous system and the kidneys, and especially to the development of the brain in a foetus or a child.
Skin-whitening soaps were for more than half a century produced as Anti-Septic Soaps with ingredients like ammoniated mercury, potassium mercuric iodide, and other toxic mercuric compounds,carboxylic, and its hydroquinone derivatives.These whitening soaps were household trend consumables and it was estimated that more than US$100 billion worth of these whitening (aka: antiseptic) soaps were sold in African continent alone in the past 50 years.
So, to be pale skinned is not the happiest choice for an Asian or African woman, after all. Neither is dark skin. So, what should they do? Using proper skincare products and sunscreeen (if exposed to real sun or indoor session) is the best choice, not only for Asian women but also for anybody who cares about their skin and health.