Monday, July 20, 2015

And So I Tried Whitening Cream

So, a few months ago I walked into a L'Occitane in one of the department stores. I wasn't really planning on buying anything, but the staff pointed me to a new product: Reine Blanche. She explained that it would help to "brighten" my skin. The bottles said "whitening."

Japan is filled with products that are aimed at making women's skin whiter. Most of them say 「美白」(bihaku) which is a combination of the characters "beautiful" and "white." While most products that promise bihaku are skin products, some toothpastes and a small number of other non-skin related items do use the name. 

As I stood there pondering whether or not to purchase a L'occitane bihaku sample set, I remembered a number of years earlier when I found a Dior box in my family's bathroom closet, filled with unopened bottles of whitening lotions. My mom said that I bought them for her years previous and the women at the counter promised that they wouldn't turn your skin white. I still have no memory of buying that box. Then I thought about a story my mom told me about her mom and how she tried to use some whitening creams on her hands, which were much darker. And I thought about my forehead which seemed a few shades darker than the rest of my face, hindering my efforts to find a foundation.

I bought the set. 

Missing a few sample pieces.


The sample set came with face wash, toner, serum, cream and sunblock in a small carry bag. I was incredibly nervous the first few times I washed my face. Would it burn? Would I be left with light patches across my face? Would I wake up disfigured?

The smell wasn't bad and my face didn't melt off, which is always great. But, I didn't feel like it was really helping my skin. I couldn't really tell if it whitened...err..."brightened" my skin. The sunblock, did make my skin look "whiter," but I would attribute that to whatever light reflecting particles they mixed into the cream.

I tried to wash my face with the stuff every night to gauge any changes. If there were any, they were slight. And possibly aided by me religiously wearing a hat every time I went out. 

When it comes to skin whitening products, I've got very mixed feelings...mostly leaning towards the negative. My skin color is darker than the average Japanese person, but not by a huge amount. I understand the history behind why lighter skin is more desirable, but again, it's one of the small things that adds up to why I can never make Japan "mine." Praise for pale, white skin is heaped upon a white friend or coworker as if it's some type of magical formula, rather than a combination of things. 

So, that's my experience with a skin whitening product. Not exactly surprising either way.

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