Coffee Mornings 2: Is there an East West divide in terms of ‘ideal’ skin tone/colour?

Coffee Mornings 2: Is there an East West divide in terms of ‘ideal’ skin tone/colour?

This week we started of talking about the latest contour kit from Kim Kardashian, leading to a discussion on the controversy of the accentuated darkness of her skin tone in some of the promotional images. This began our debate on ‘the tan’, which is what Kim K put the darkness of her skin colour down to (as well as a little too much contrast in Photoshop).

It is no secret that a tan is highly prized in the west, with children and adults comparing the tan on their arms to see who has ‘bronzed’ the most. We aren’t going to fully go into the dangers of trying to tan in this article. But I wanted to mention that the actual darkening of the skin is a sign of skin damage itself. So, the most tanned when comparing with others, is also the most skin damaged.  

As much as the tan is loved in the west, it is abhorred in the east. When I lived in India I remember seeing adverts for the brand ‘Fair and Lovely’. Which promotes fairer skin and whitening creams. Some of the girls in the CM group, found the idea of whitening creams shocking. Yet if we had done this coffee morning in Seoul, the efforts and advertisements of the tanning industry would most likely be met with the same reaction.

This divide, is most clearly seen in the marketing differences between brands in the west and east. Fair and Lovely is owned by Unilever (who also own Dove). Their advertisements are about the advantages of having pale skin, with darker toned women often portrayed as unhappy, depressed and unattractive (which doesn’t quite fit in with the Dove Real beauty campaign). Although most marketing used to be about being ‘fair’ to find a husband, it seems to be progressing to being ‘fair’ to find a job and buy a house. It can’t be shaken. The focus on ‘fair’ is also one of the reason for the stereotype that Asian’s don’t age as quickly, as the sun is the greatest contributor to ageing, and avoiding it at all costs certainly slows down the process.

 Pond's Advert - Black Out White InThis is an advert from Pond's 'Dark Out, White In' white beauty cream.

In the west, the ‘bronzed glow’ is a seasonal frenzy. Although advertisements are more subtle than a lot of the contrary Asian based counterparts. They are clearly still having an effect, as tanning in the UK alone is a multimillion pound industry. Large retailers like H & M have previously been criticised for adverts encouraging tan culture, and skin cancer rates are rising. One particular advert that caught my eye was from an American tan company that said ‘Pale, the scariest thing you could be this Halloween’. I mean, really. I’m sure having a melanoma is worse.

 Honestly, the beauty ideals are infuriating, and we didn’t even have time to go over the extremes of each. That of skin bleaching (exactly how it sounds) and tanning beds – that have been compared to coffins. The divide shows just how much we shouldn’t care about what we feel we ‘should’ look like at the beach, or even Halloween. Your skin is already the only colour it should be, and attempting to change it whether lighter or darker is something that you should never feel pressured to do.

 Nicola Roberts - Anti-tan campaign

Girls Aloud singer Nicola Roberts made a documentary on tan culture, and starred in the above anti-tan campaign.

 One I embraced my paleness, it felt so liberating. Which in itself is a sign that there was a pressure that shouldn’t have been there. Being comfortable in your skin, is paramount to your health and happiness. Who cares what everyone else thinks. This is where our slogan comes from, and why owning the skin you’re in, is the most important message we try to convey. Checking out other beauty ideals around the world can be an eye-opening experience, and show you truly how little those specific ideals of beauty matter.


Poppy xoxo

 For products with SPF check out our BB creams in Makeup.


If you want to read more about this you can check out these articles below from:


The Guardian – Nicola Roberts - The Truth about tanning:


The Asian Journal of Communication:

Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising:


BBC 'Racist' Thailand skin-whitening advert is withdrawn:


The Independent – Sunbeds advertising to be banned:


The Local – H & M tan advert controversy:

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