Bizarre Beauty Products That Are Racist as Hell

April 29th 2016

Kylie Cheung

Throughout 2016 so far, racism has been called out in a variety of places, from Hollywood casting to policing to Donald Trump rallies. But here's one surprising place you'll also find it: beauty aisles.

The era of white imperialism may have, for the most part, come and gone, but fair skin tones and Caucasian facial features continue to be upheld as the beauty norms in countries around the world. Here are just a few examples of beauty products — both mainstream and, well, not so mainstream — that continue to shamelessly uphold notions of white, light-skinned supremacy.

1.Lactacyd White Intimate

"Sweat and excessive friction from tight clothing can darken the skin around the intimate area, causing self-consciousness, decreased confidence or intimacy inhibition," the product description reads. So, following the logic of the product's creators, based in the Philippines, dark skin, around the "intimate area" especially, not only repels men, but will decrease your confidence, too. Do you really need an explanation for how shaming darker skin tones and upholding white skin as aesthetically superior is racist?

2. Pinky Queen Top Pack

And in case you didn't think beauty products could get any stranger, or more racist, take a look at this Japanese "nipple cream" (NSFW) that makes darker, brown nipples "prettier" by, you guessed it, making them paler and "pinker." In other words, it might be the 21st century but pale features are still superior to dark features — and nipple coloration is no exception.

3. Seoul Secret beauty pills

Thai skincare company Seoul Secret came under fire in January this year when it advertised skin whitening pills under the tagline "white makes you win." It also advertised with a video showing a prominent Thai model slowly turn black as she claims she could lose "everything she has worked for" without "the whiteness [she has] invested in."

The Guardian reported that skin whitening products were widely used in Asian countries, and the skin whitening pill was an alternative to creams that caused skin irritation. However, other parts of Thai society have fought the stigma against darker skin with a new magazine called Tan, which celebrates sun-kissed skin. And let's not forget that in 2014, darker skinned model Maeya Nonthawan won the Miss Thailand World pageant.

4. Nivea for Men "Re-civilize Yourself" hair products

In 2011, Nivea for Men promoted men's hair care products by encouraging men to "re-civilize" themselves, of course, using a photo of a Black model holding what appears to be a dark-skinned mask with an afro. Bitch Media was quick to point out how easily the mask could even be mistaken as a decapitated head, and serve as a triggering reminder of America's gruesome history with lynching and the Black community. While the ad was quickly retracted, it should serve as an uncomfortable reminder today of how hairstyles emblematic of nonwhite groups are often inherently labeled "uncivilized" or unprofessional.

Granted, the ad should also serve as a reminder that racism in the beauty industry isn't by any means a gendered issue.

5. Blepharoplasty

It's no secret blepharoplasty, or the surgical repair or reconstruction of an eyelid, is a norm in Asian countries. Alternet reports that most parents in Asian countries "assume that paying for eye surgery [is] just another part of raising a daughter."

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons started to keep count of the number of blepharoplasties perfromed starting in 1999. That number was 142,000 and has since more than doubled, according to Alternet.

"This acceptance of surgery within the Asian American community, while not surprising, is now being seen by more and more feminist Asian Americans as the product of an ethnocentric, racist culture," writer Shirley Lin explains.

There's no shortage of tutorials and products marketed to Asian women, pressuring them to reshape their eyelids, to achieve a "double eyelid" and adhere to western standards of beauty upheld as visually superior. Historically and even today, Asian individuals have been and continue to be characterized by the shape of their eyes, often in a critical, mocking manner. Unfortunately, efforts to amend and westernize natural Asian features are most likely a response to decades of these racist characterizations.

6. "Nude" products

In 2014, the editorial board of the University of Oklahoma's newspaper sparked controversy when it deemed nude bras a modern extension of white privilege, garnering routine criticism from opponents of "political correctness." But think about some of the "nude" colored products you own, from concealer to lingerie.

The fashion and beauty industries continue to define the color "nude" as a shade that excludes darker, nonwhite skin tones, solidifying our society's collective understanding of "nude" as the color of white skin.