Fair and lovely: building an integrated model to examine how peer influence mediates the effects of skin-lightening advertisements on college women in Singapore

Stella C. Chia

City University of Hong Kong

Yuen Ting Chay, Poh Kwan Cheong, Wai Yin Cheong and Sok Kuan Lee

Nanyang Technological University

Introduction

Women’s obsession with fair skin has been documented across many cultures. European ladies are known to have lightened their skin since the 16th century, while upper-class Egyptian, Greek and Roman women used a recipe consisting of mercury and lead compounds to reassert their aristocratic upbringing (Goon & Craven 2003; Daniel 2007). The craze for fair skin is even more evident across Asia (Daniel 2007; Kobayashi 2007). About 30% of women in China, 20% in Taiwan, and 18% in Japan and Hong Kong use skin-lightening (often called skin-whitening in Asia) products on a daily or weekly basis (Nielsen Company 2007a). In India, skin-lightening products make up 60% of the cosmetic industry (Daniel 2007). As a whole, the Asia-Pacific sun-care market grew by 4.4% in 2008 and reached a value of US$1.2 billion. The market is estimated to further increase by more than 20% in 2013 (Datamonitor 2008). Targeting Asian women’s desire to have fair skin, manufacturers of skin-lightening or skincare products spent more than US$6.1 billion on advertising (Nielsen Company 2007b).