Asian beauty standards

Thicker lips and a smaller nose.
Are we working our way towards a beauty overdose?

Figure 1 The Basis of East Asian Beauty Standards (Nguyen, K. 2020)

 

Technology, media, and influencers, all these are factors of spreading messages easily these days. I don’t think I am the only who notices that the online pictures always seem to look perfect, no wrinkles, no pimples, just flawless skin and cute smile dimples. This image created online where everything looks perfect and certain features are highlighted, have created beauty standards. These standards are showed to society as what is seen as beautiful, including hair, weight, height, and your skin.

Men and women around the world face these images daily and get insecure. They want to change the way they look to live up to these beauty standards because they feel like they would be happier or feel more wanted and accepted within society.
The beauty standards are different for every part of the world. In this article the focus will be on the Asian beauty standards, and the impact within its society.

Never feel defined 
by your size, measures, 
and beauty standards.

– Jacklyn Tyson –

 

Fair skin for the win?
There is an insane pressure coming from the media. Celebrities with smoothed skin, filters that give you the desired skin tone and eye colour, the media pressure is there, and it is not contributing to healthy habits.

While in Europe and America it is desired to have tanned skin, one of the biggest beauty standards in Asia is to have fair skin as that is the idea of attractive there. Cremes with whitening ingredients, people walking on the street with an umbrella against the sun, the large amount of sunscreen used. It is all to keep the skin as light as possible.
The image of white skin that is seen as beautiful isn’t something only of recent years. If we look at the history of Asia this played a big role in society hundreds of years ago already. In Japan, it was a woman’s responsibility to applying white powder onto the face to achieve a white polished porcelain look. In Korea, it was a trend to use peach flower for face washing to get fair skin. It was and still is a status symbol.

To go deeper into the skincare industry, many influences are visible here. Advertisements about whitening creams, white models promoting skincare products, products promoting whitening with titles such as: white perfect, fair and lovely, etc. If this won’t change, we are close to just naming products ‘the brighter the better’. The influences from are hard to escape (Phan, A. 2021).

What is the difference between the East and the West beauty standards? See the video below

Fake it till you make it
Not only is fair skin a beauty standard. South-Korea, also known as the plastic surgery and skincare capital of the world, is a major source of influence and trendsetter for the beauty ideals in Asia. When looking at the most done surgery procedures, double eyelid surgery, v-line jawline surgery, and rhinoplasty are part of the trend and 1 in 3 persons had surgery in South-Korea between the ages of 19 and 29 (SkyNews, 2019). According to Hansa Manakitsomboon (2022), the most surgical procedures done in Thailand are Rhinoplasty and on a second-place eyelid surgery.

Figure 2 number of surgical procedures for face and head in Thailand 2022 – Statista

 

The eyelid surgery has been done for make-up purposes and to define the eyes even more, but without losing the Asian characteristics. It is not to look more western, but to create a happier looking expression as people find the shape of the Asian eyes to be sad looking. A V-shaped face has always been considered beautiful and feminine. The procedure is supposed to give you an angelic look, but it is an intense process and requires at least a month of recovery. Then there is rhinoplasty which is for the nose. The outcome of the procedure commonly is a reduced base of the nose with more projection. Besides, it ranks as one of the most performed surgeries (NewBeauty Editors, 2014). The reasons for surgery in Thailand share common grounds as those for South-Korea.


How is it possible that from hundreds of years ago, these beauty standards forwarded into the modern day of society? There have to be other factors as it cannot be just by the spread via media since that wasn’t really big until recent years.

 

Who else contributies to creating this image?
A major influence that started projecting these beauty standards to kids from a young age, is family. Focusing on looking like the idealism of long hair, pure white skin, and being a certain size, is projected onto children during their whole lives, it hurts the self-esteem, and they are too young to understand it, so they are easier influenced. An example in Pakistan is that the most important thing is to get married. To be able to do so they “have to look gorgeous”, is what they are getting told. Working on your looks from birth to marriage in order to find love and look as good as possible for your future partner is imprinted by its culture and family from a young age. Understandably, if you have been told something your whole life, it takes a lot to step away from that belief (DW, 2021).

Where does the obsession come from?
In whole Asia, being tanned is associated to the poor. I can hear you thinking, why?Well, a popular profession in Asia was, and still is, farmer. They work outside and because of the sun they tan. Besides, as being a farmer isn’t the highest paying job, they are considered a poor working group.
So, that is how the Asians associate being tanned to being poorer, it is a sign of social class. Not only does this belief exist in India and Thailand, but it is something of the whole Asian culture (Rastogi, 2018).

I think it is safe to say that the pressure to live up to these beauty standards is insane. If you don’t hear it from your own family at a young age, you will be surrounded by it at school, in the stores by advertisements, and in the media, it is almost unavoidable. You have to be strong minded to not let it influence you.

The cherry on top
On top of this all, since this picture-perfect ideal seems to work online, it has even become a job requirement in many Asian countries as well.
In Indian countries, European models are used for acting jobs because of their skin tone. On the job description is also asked for ‘fair skin people’ as a requirement. It’s almost the brighter the skin, the less jobs in the bin VICE News, 2020).

Figure3: Illustrations by Shrishti Guptaroy for BRIGHT magazine. Click here for beter quality of the illustration


How is beauty defined in your country? 

To be honest, I can’t blame the people who can’t handle the pressure and decide to change something in their appearance. The majority would not be able to persist this, right? That doesn’t mean it is okay, it is not. Young girls and boys doing Botox and putting unnatural stuff into their faces just because society gives you the feeling you must look like that. It is unhealthy.

Release the beauty disease.

I am aware that this ‘trend’ cannot just be stopped. If it was that simple, it would have stopped already.
There is also marketing companies profiting off if it, these industries will not cooperate to stop this completely. However, I do believe they can contribute to creating a healthier image without losing any profit, since that is often a companies’ priority.
Agree with me or not, but I feel like we have lost the purpose of media out of sight. It has become more about the looks instead of the actual message and expressing ourselves, and being in contact with people.

More people are standing up to this and asking for change, more inclusiveness. The media, fashion, skincare and many more appearance focused industries must realize that it can still deliver its messages, even if someone with a ‘not perfect’ person is doing so. Just as fair skin was a job requirement, inclusiveness should become a business plan requirement. We have to understand that we look because of demographics. Lighter skin for people from places with less sun, darker people from places with more sun. There is an important reason for why we look the way we do; it is called surviving.

It would be amazing to see a shift from thriving on affirmation because of beauty to thriving on being healthy and taking care of yourself and for yourself, wouldn’t it?

The body is smart, let’s listen to it and give ourselves a release from the beauty disease.

References


Beauty, body and mind / HER (2/3) | DW Documentary. (2021, 4 July). [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCtJ4Ta_1-c&list=PLs147e8sXHQZCIpHOfi9_XN1XDSQJIOdU&index=5

Editors, N. B. (Ed.). (2022, March 10). The 5 most popular plastic surgery procedures in Asia. NewBeauty. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from https://www.newbeauty.com/the-5-most-popular-plastic-surgery-procedures-in-asia/

Guptaroy, S. (2019, 10 juli). Fair, but not so lovely: India’s obsession with skin whitening [Illustratie]. BRIGHT magazine. https://brightthemag.com/fair-but-not-so-lovely-indias-obsession-with-skin-whitening-beauty-body-image-bleaching-4d6ba9c9743d

Manakitsomboon, H. (2022, January). Number of face and head surgical procedures Thailand 2020, by type [Chart]. Statista https://lb-aps-frontend.statista.com/statistics/1012523/thailand-number-face-head-surgical-procedures-by-type/

Nguyen, K. (2020, 24 januari). The Basis of East Asian Beauty Standards [Foto]. Medium. https://medium.com/@kellynguyen99/the-basis-of-east-asian-beauty-standards-823bd7ce6e05

Phan, A. (2022, 6 January).  The History of “White Skin” Beauty Standards in Asia. Medium. Retrieved in March 20, 2022, from https://medium.com/lessons-from-history/the-history-of-white-skin-beauty-standards-in-asia-bf8bbf60016a

Rastogi, A. (2020). The most obvious answer is that Indians are racists. But if we delve a bit deeper, the answer isn’t​ so [Reaction to the article “Why do Indians like fair skinned people like typical Persians and Levantines so much? What’s so great about fair skin?”]. Quora. https://www.quora.com/Why-do-Indians-like-fair-skinned-people-like-typical-Persians-and-Levantines-so-much-Whats-so-great-about-fair-skin

Tyson, J. (n.d.). Never feel deinde by your size, measures, and beauty standards. [Quote]. minimalist Jacklyn Tyson quotes. https://minimalistquotes.com/jacklyn-tyson-quote-31722/

 Why India’s Fair Skin Business Is Booming. (2020, 20 January). [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlOHSbf9XGI&list=PLs147e8sXHQZCIpHOfi9_XN1XDSQJIOdU&index=2

 Why is South Korea facing a beauty backlash? (2019, 29 November). [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yg71S0ZmV-U&list=PLs147e8sXHQZCIpHOfi9_XN1XDSQJIOdU&index=1

 

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