Why People Risk Their Lives To Bleach Their Skin | Shady | Refinery29

Why People Risk Their Lives To Bleach Their Skin | Shady | Refinery29


One of the fastest growing sectors of the
beauty industry, is also one of its most controversial: Skin Bleaching. She will do the buying. When the color of your skin can determine
your future, how far would you go to be lighter? Having light skin, I think it is important
here. Skin tone matters, nowadays. And they prefer the white ones. When I was younger, they would always call
me, “pretty, but… Pretty but dark.” Whatever that fair girl embodies in my head is just someone that is just a little better than me. Skin bleaching, also known as skin lightening
or whitening, is a global market expected to grow to over 24 billion dollars in the
next decade. Advertisements pedaling products can be seen
across the globe. Asia holds the lion’s share of the market,
and at the heart of it lies the Philippines, with one of the highest rates of use in the
world. The Philippines is a country on the economic
rise, and its new money fuels the possibility of rapid social mobility. One of the most popular strategies to get
a leg up is skin bleaching. But at what cost? It’s estimated that 1-in-2 Filipinos have
tried skin whitening products. I wanted to understand why, so I went to meet
someone who’s shaping the face of beauty, not only in the Philippines, but across the
world. Dr Vicki Belo. It’s almost a status symbol, like having
a Hermes bag. It just sounds so politically incorrect that
I’m having a hard time. She’s a celebrity dermatologist who’s
built a skin lightening empire. What kind of treatments do you do here for whitening? We do scrubs, lasers, wet and dry dermabrasion,
capsules, intravenous. So we treat it from the inside, we treat it
from the outside. My motto is to make the Philippines the most
beautiful country in the world. And for many, that means skin whitening. Today what do you want to do? Your usual drip? Your Cinderella drip? One of the most popular procedures here is
an IV drip. Lean back. Are you okay? Are you comfortable? So we are about to see the Cinderella drip,
which is a mix of glutathione and Vitamin C. The star ingredient, glutathione, is a
controversial antioxidant to lighten the skin from the inside out. It hasn’t been approved for cosmetic use
by the FDA. Still, Dr. Belo’s clients are willing to
drop hundreds of dollars per session, taking on the risk, in hopes of getting whiter. I’ve done some Hollywood celebrities. People coming in from London! While off label glutathione requires more
research, Dr. Belo argues that it’s at least being done under medical supervision. I think you really get what you pay for. Cause some people, they just go for price. People actually risk their lives, just to
get whiter. Things that are coming contain mercury in the creams. That’s really destructive. That’s really poisonous, actually. Videos online and in the news have emerged showing harmful side effects for some of these products. Across the Philippines, women have reported
signs of mercury poisoning. The culprit: cheap whitening creams that often
sell for a little over a dollar. I wanted to know what these products were, and why people would risk using them for paler skin. It’s a serious concern. These kind of cheap skin whitening creams,
you can buy it everywhere. There’s one man fighting this issue on the
front lines: Thony Dizon, an activist at Ecowaste Coalition. We discover that skin lightening is a product
that has a mercury concentration and that there is a risk. A variety of ingredients can be used for skin
whitening. The basic idea is to slow melanin production. The less melanin, the lighter your skin. Vitamin C, hydroquinone and kojic acid are
some of the most common ones. But one of the cheapest and deadliest is mercury,
a heavy metal that can be toxic for humans, even in tiny doses. Repeated exposure, like smearing it on your
face every day, can lead to tremors, kidney failure and even birth defects. So mercury isn’t just an incidental contaminant,
it’s actually what’s bleaching your skin? It’s a serious concern. A public health concern. I couldn’t believe these products were on
the market. It turns out, they aren’t. Because they’re so toxic, these mercury
laced creams are banned by the government. But they’re still flooding into the country
at an alarming rate. And the reason behind it is shocking. Some customs people would hate me for this. Customs employees are in collusion with the
smuggling. What do you mean in collusion with the smugglers? They know that these containers contain beauty
products and they just let them slip through and they receive some bribes. It’s a culture in the bureau that it is immoral to let drugs and fire arms slip through customs. But beauty products don’t seem to fall under
that? No. In fact some have this perception that they
are helping Filipinos improve their appearance. It’s almost like the culture around skin
bleaching allows for this proliferation of illegal bleaching creams. Yes, definitely. It’s baffling. But customs agents actually think that they’re
doing people a favor by allowing cheap creams with mass appeal to hit the market, since
few can afford high end treatments. It makes for an uphill battle for Thony, but
he’s determined to crack down on this illegal activity. I’m riding along on an undercover buy, on
the condition that I stay in the car, and protect his colleague’s identity. What we’re gonna do is we’re gonna put a hidden camera on her. She will do the buying. So the hidden camera has been positioned in
her bag and it’s pointing directly outwards and she’s going to wear her bag on the front. She’s mic’d up and they have a couple
different people standing throughout the market who are both safety and to capture different
angles. Alright, so they just did the undercover buy
and let’s look at some of the products that you got. Armed with these creams, the next step is
to take them back to test just how dangerous they are. But why do people take these risks at all? Do you think that people who were buying the
products, like in that store for example, know how dangerous they are? What do you think about all the whitening
products? Skin whitening products that I used were glutathione
pills, papaya soaps, whitening soaps and lotions. They’re not looking to be white like a white
person, they’re just looking to be lighter skinned because historically that’s what
they perceive as not only beautiful, but also powerful. For more than 400 years, the Philippines was
ruled by one foreign power or another. Spain, the United States, and even Japan for
a brief period of time. The Japanese occupation was celebrated by
the invaders with a parade through the center of the city. The island nation finally declared its independence
in 1946. But centuries of outside rule have shaped
beauty standards to prize pale skin. It’s a legacy that’s very much alive today. Charlene is one Filipina who attributes much
of her success to her skin tone. She’s an influencer with over 200,000 followers. Hold that, looking great. My instagram, there are a lot of countries
following me. They are like, “Oh you look so great, your
skin is so fair.” In the Philippines if you have fair or lighter
skin, you’re more prettier, you’re more beautiful and you have a lot of advantages. Like many Filipinas, Charlene’s beauty routine
includes a daily whitening regimen. I have morning and I have evening routine. So this is cortisone soap. I’m using this for six years now. And you use it all over your body and your
face. Yes, I use it on my body, I use it on my face. So I drink this once a day before I sleep. It looks like this. And in the morning I feel my skin gets glowy. So the day I don’t whiten my skin, I gave
birth to a dark beautiful baby girl. And I don’t want my daughter to feel the
same insecurity that I went through. People lighten their skin just to increase
their attractiveness to the opposite sex. I was starting to understand. Skin whitening is pervasive in the Philippines
because for so many people, it represents the opportunity for something more. Skin tone isn’t just about skin. It is about class. Everybody that uses these products are very
clear about the economic benefit. That far outweighs any risk. Back at the Ecowaste headquarters, I’m about
to find out just how much risk there is. Why are you putting gloves on? Ah, yes. Because this product has chemical so you don’t
want to expose. Especially because I will be touching the
product. And at the same time we open up the windows
since we suspected that this product has mercury. This is a point and shoot device. The screen will show the concentration of
mercury. So I have sort of an idea of what these numbers
mean, what are the legal limits of mercury in these products. For our country, it has a limit of one part
per million. One part per million. Okay. Yes. This cream here is this bright yellow, almost
custard-y consistency. Trying to hold my breath. Now you will see. Wow, so this is over four times the legal
limit. More than, more than. It’s 42,000. This isn’t in percent, so if you were
going to convert it times one hundred or times one thousand, this is 42,000. This is way, way beyond. I thought that it was shocking that it was
four times the amount that was allowed, it’s 42,000 times the amount. Thony and I tested every cream they bought. Way beyond the limit. Jar after jar contained mercury at illegal
and alarming levels. This is a little bit lower, but it still has
mercury. So these products here are banned, they’re
illegal. But we just bought them today. Is that safe to say then that they are still
being imported, they are still being smuggled in. Exactly. With results from our testing in hand, Thony’s
come to Quezon city hall to demand they remove these products from the streets. We don’t want this situation to worsen up. We don’t want to hear any more victims of
this mercury exposure. What is at stake with the work that you’re
doing? It is very important in the country because
nobody does it. Ecowaste is the only one doing this. The reality is, people in the Philippines
and across the globe will continue to use skin whitening products and until the culture
that privileges lighter skin changes, it’s people like Thony, who look out for consumers
to make sure products are safe. We’ve been out here for a few hours waiting
for Thony, waiting on the news of whether or not the government’s actually going to
take action to try to seize all of these really toxic illegal products. Ahh! We got it! The meeting was a success. Wow! So what happened? We got the support of all the agencies who
will do the law enforcement action. So because of your investigation, they’re
now looking into it and you’re going to get these products off the street? Yes and we will still continue! Victory. Yes, victory moment! It may seem like a small step, but Thony’s
tireless work makes the world of beauty a little bit safer. And that progress is something to root for. Thanks for watching Refinery29. For more videos like this, click here. And to subscribe, click here.

100 thoughts on “Why People Risk Their Lives To Bleach Their Skin | Shady | Refinery29

  1. Have you ever heard of skin bleaching products before? Share your opinions on what the use of these products really means.

  2. So sad how black people and darker skinned people are labeled lower classed and ugly just for existing. Years of colonialism and ignorance has crippled many easterners minds. No one has control of what their skin is naturally so why is beauty based of just color for there ppl. Mind blowing

  3. I woukd only use the lightening on my inner thighs that is it. I am naturally darker because i am from puerto rico in the carribean. I get mad when people ask "why are you not lighter". Puerto Rico is always sunny and hot. My skin is made to protect me from it.

  4. Jusme I only want clear skin in my face😂 ay nvm kung pwede whole body nalang😂 clear skin lang im proud of my skin color 😂❤️

  5. I'm an Asian who lives in Ireland. I've always wanted to be paler but since secondary school started every girl puts on fake tan for discos and say I'm so lucky cause I don't have to and don't look orange.

  6. I think this is just a screwed up society… everywhere you look there's pictures of what "perfection" should look like…people with dark skin think they want or would look better with pale skin and someone like me who was born very fair is standing out in the sun, without sunblock, trying to darken my skin because I feel I'm too pale . So, instead I get burned and freckled which gives me some color BUT not what I wanted or what I perceive to be beautiful ( which is darker) now I'm speckled and probably will end up having to get skin cancer removed in a few years if and when I decide to get any odd marks checked. It seems to just be shoved into our minds, if you have low self esteem, that how you look no matter how that is, ITS WRONG! That's sad. So how do you try to raise beautiful children to believe they are truly beautiful, with the way society is? I was always told as I was growing up that I was beautiful by my parents..they never made me feel less than that with their words and actions yet somehow I grow up hating how I look. Where does that come from and who can change it? It's just so sad the lengths people will go to change how they look and when they do, it's never enough.

  7. That is the result of 2500 years colonialism of Asians by Romans-Europeans; the colonizers have brainwashed the colonized people: so, they can't forget the masters.

  8. Yahh getting rid of my pimples and minimizing my pores are much more concerning to me than getting lighter skin while living in a tropical country and being exposed to 30-32°C of Sun heat 24/7. People should be more concern on how to protect their skin from UV Rays in order to prevent skin diseases.

  9. The real Answer is when You have a White skin In PH you Look Rich and when you have Dark one they think your poor It is Unfair but More People Do Descrimination about skin tone

  10. I think what this video misses out a lot on is the underlying racism and white supremacy that these whitening products gave rise to.

  11. I don't know how you managed to pin the "blame" of local preference for lighter complexion to Western colonialism when those beauty standards have existed since the time of the Han Dynasty. If you were born into the aristocracy or well-to-do landowning class, your complexion would naturally be lighter than those who worked the fields. This is true of every East Asian and South East Asian civilizations. The imperial harems—from India to Korea—took a liking to women with fair complexions. It was a common practice for ladies during the Tang Dynasty to powder their face white to emulate the nobility.

  12. my mom wants to be white and you best believe I’m not finna let her do that cause she won’t look like my mom she will look like a dang marshmallow so no ma’am hindi 아니 לא

  13. I didn't know this until now and I went to the Philippines last year. It's so sad that people change their apperance just because people would not except them if they look like something else. And also my parents are from the Philippines.

  14. This is awful. I think dark skin is so beautiful ❤ I guess I didn't realize this was a thing because so many people here in America want to be darker. It's sad that nobody can be happy with their skin color 😯

  15. They are all so beautiful! I hate that people have to feel so cursed by what is so naturally amazing….What have we done to the world….

  16. I mean damned if you're dark, damned if you're not. People cant be happy in their own skin.

    What really irks me the most though is this video is shot in the Philippines where most filipino people naturally fall on the dark side of skintone colour compared to other Asian which is absolutely fine. Why be someone youre not? Embrace that melanin people!

  17. I just find this ridiculously funny that most filipino are christian and go to church every week but are the most judgemental people in the world. I suggest everyone skipping the Philippines for a holiday visit and come straight to New Zealand. We dont bite and you arent forced to scrub off the skin you have with bleaching products over here lol

  18. The Professor: No, the Filipinos aren't seeking to look like "white people", they just want lighter skin
    The Reporter, 2 seconds later: Implies that Filipinos want to look like white people because they'd been controlled by white people in the past

  19. :"Whatever that fair girl embodies in my head is just (being) a little better than me." 💔 so revealing but so sad don't abandon yourself..So much of what's wrong with the world is proliferated in ignorance.

  20. Im Filipina, and Im proud of my brown skin. Lots of foreigners complemented my skin color when I was in Boracay. Felt better when I saw them lie down on the beach for hours just to get a tan, and I got one for life!!!!

  21. If you are born a certain colour, honestly just embrace it. But stay away from direct sunlight to keep skin looking healthy.

  22. I am a brown girl from India we have more melanin then western people India is hot country. No need to change your skin colour be happy what you have 🙂🙂

  23. I'm a Filipino teenage girl. I thought of using whitening products but I get dark skin easily so no, say no to whitening products 😂

  24. This makes dark skinned people more rare. Soon they will treat dark people as high class
    Due to the common population of bleached people.

  25. 😒… You were made the way you were made.. having lighter skin does not change who YOU are… Sad really, enjoy your life before you die.

  26. We treat from inside she is say that as if melanin is posion….i want to be and oncologist and i have been studying oncology and we should never mess around with melanocytes

  27. Wait until they hit their 30's or 40's. The damage they put their skin through will really show. Natural skin is beautiful, whether you're pale or dark, as long as your skin is healthy, its beauty will show. Do not damage it by bleaching or tanning, because at the end of the day, our skin is an important organ. We don't want harmful chemicals in our hearts, intestines… etc, so why should we expose our skin to them

  28. I want to hug all of these people, and I want to tell them that there beautiful just the way they are. And you shouldn't change your appearance, to please one another…

  29. Racism and discrimination is destroying our world. We need to teach the younger ones to love themselves by the way they are especially in Asian countries where “beauty standards” are so high.

  30. It’s so crazy that in mainly Asia, people want lighter skin. But in America, people want tan skin. Crazy to think about.

  31. Multiple stores have bleaching creams placed with the people of color hair products. Sickening.
    This is a whole other level but the level it's at all around the world is beyond disturbing. Heart breaking really.

  32. Most people in Asian countries like whiter skin, but it's more on the culture. For me, I think Philippines is some sort like a very important historical thing.

  33. And in Croatia you would spend few hours on the beach to get some tan… No problem in that until it becomes a must or opsesion

  34. I’m a brown girl filipina and I work in Saudi Arabia. Every year I go home for vacation, I always go to beaches. Every time I go back to Saudi, my filipino colleagues will point out that I turned really dark and it’s not attractive, while my foreign colleagues will say Mashaa Allah! You are so pretty! I wish I have your skin color! I used to be that girl who dreamed of being a fair girl, but now… I realised that Every skin color is beautiful, and everyone should learn to love and appreciate what they have. God bless everyone.

  35. I'm a black girl and my mom's Philippine friend gave me a skin bleach soap to make my skin pretty. i threw that shit in the trash. I love my melanin.

  36. I don't think anyone will read this, but I had to say it somewhere. I have used similar products when I was younger, and even to this day, I cannot stay in the sun without feeling pain. When people ask if I burn or tan, I don't know the answer anymore, because I can't go outside in the sun without wearing tons of sunscreen. I am unsure of what the ingredients in the cream I used were, but I know now thatthey were counterfeit versions of the legal stuff. I just feel horrified seeing this and learning what could've been in it. I wish videos like these were around when I was younger.

  37. I'm Filipino but i have natural white skin, actually i dont care about my color but everyones around me wants it.

  38. Simple make safe whitening products! Westerners like to tan. Filipinos should be proud of their island Asian diversity, then sleeping with old foreign men.

  39. this is all so dumb. everyone is beautiful with the skin color they have. my skin is very pale, and i've spent a lot of my life trying to get tan, because in my country being tanned and bronzed is beautiful. girls in countries like the philippines would dream of skin like mine, but i used to want skin like theirs. beauty is subjective. thank you to refinery29 for helping to expose the harmful practice of skin bleaching! love your skin, it is beautiful, no matter if you are black, brown, white, or anything in-between. keep your skin safe! (skin cancer or other skin diseases are not jokes and should be avoided if possible)

  40. India in Asia is one of the worst countries in this matter every single day iam reminded by my peers,family etc that iam dark and I have been reminded that since I was a toddler and it’s so messed up that someone who should have a careless life as a toddler was being scrubbed by home remedies just so they can be more beautiful it hurts my heart every single day and iam so insecure of my couloir that’s if someone comments on it I have no comebacks and get panic attacks

  41. i think tan skin is the most beautiful skin colour, i don't understand the beauty standards of asian countries but perhaps they feel the same way about westerners idealizing tanner/darker skin

  42. I think its too bad that the root causes of why this is such a pervasive beauty standard was kind of brushed over. Its roots are both classist and racist, entrenched in colonial history. Only if that is understood and acted upon accordingly, you can actually stop this shit from happening. Brown & black = BEAUTIFUL.

  43. could have chosen a less fair skin reporter her skin complexion is more fair then the rest of those woman trying to get a fair skin

  44. The white girl herself wants to look different and beautiful from others. She bleached her hair. The white women bleach their hair blonde and ginger. Humans want what they don't have . It's human tendency for wanting more. Asians want to look fair skinned. I see that as a bit of a problem no matter how hard we try we are still yellow and brown . The whites never consider as white. They consider as yellow. So be happy with what you got.

  45. Has anyone noticed that those skin bleaching creams are made in China?! Hence why it's cheap and has toxic substances!!
    Not only do China produce them, but they also tweak consumables, such as Fake Rice, Eggs, Grapes, etc….Japan has made a program about it.
    They have found dumplings that were manufactured in China containing toxic substances, and were making people ill in Japan, as it was exported there!
    Even tainting baby formulas with melamine (which hospitalized 54,000 babies, 6 of them died in China). That is why they are labelled as Black Heart Market, because it's all about profits, never mind keeping the public safe!!

  46. Interesting, I use retinol and vitamin C as well, but definitely not for skin bleaching, I use it as anti aging… Will I get extremely pale now? 😅

  47. They aren't bleaching their skin because of imperial rule, skin whitening is popular in Japan and South Korea. Especially South Korea. However you made it 9 minutes without circling the wagon back to evil white people, so good effort.

  48. Im an american who lived in the phillipines for 16 years and from experience sadly this is all true ive seen from the ghettos to the 1st class all of this is true

  49. And yet people here in the US are freaking out about skin tones for pretty much nothing. None of us have had to experience not being able to get a job, husband/wife, or even a good life without having light skin. We have it made here in the US compared to other countries like the Philippines and such.

  50. It's not just in the Philippines. This skin whitening madness is very common in India as well. Using such toxic chemicals just to look fair is ridiculous. Love your skin tone don't let the media or anyone tell you that you need to be lighter or even tanned. 👍👍

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