In the hot Kansai summers, we often see woman wearing long, black gloves to cover their hands and arms, long pants, and a hat to ward off the darkening effect that exposure to the sun can bring on. And although they are greatly reducing their risk for skin cancer, that’s not really what these woman are worried about. They’re worried about keeping their skin white and not only white, but also unmarked. Freckled skin, called “kisses from the sun” in some Western countries or “beauty marks” in others, are seen as ugly blemishes in Japan. One girl I spoke to, was so embarrassed by the mole on her cheek, she said it affected her self esteem and felt very self-conscious about it. She wanted to get it removed but the procedure was expensive, so she wanted to wait until she could save enough money to get it removed.
To me, however, her mole was a unique characteristic and something that would be admired as a beauty mark in the West. “Bring on the whitening creams!” the girls in Japan say, at which companies like Shiseido and Kosé rush to produce the next line in whitening creams. And these companies are truly making a killing. Whitening creams can range anywhere from 500 yen to 40,000 yen, and with most females spending in the upper range of these prices, the company presidents are smiling.
Another century-old Japanese beauty treatment to make the skin more youthful and white is a nightingale dropping facial or using products made with the nightingale’s droppings. Some women swear by it. So whatever it is, bird poop or whitening cream, white is definitely in demand.