Sun, Mar 11, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Feature: Skin tone products sell `self-confidence'

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

It's not uncommon to see Taiwanese women open umbrellas before leaving a building or shield their faces as they run across the street on a sunny day.

As in many Asian countries, women go to great lengths to keep their skin pale.

Fair skin is so coveted that, as a traditional saying has it, it can compensate for three flaws in one's appearance.

Although toned and tanned celebrities such as singer Coco Lee present an alternative "healthy beauty" ideal, most Taiwanese women still strive for a porcelain rather than a copper look.

The Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister paper) reported in 2005 that whitening products accounted for up to 35 percent of Taiwan's NT$60 billion (US$1.8 billion) skincare and cosmetics market, grossing NT$21 billion in sales.

Although Japanese brands have traditionally held an advantage in this market, European and US brands that do not offer whitening products because of a lack of demand back home are scrambling to introduce whitening products into their lineup.

In addition to cosmetics and food products with purported whitening properties and skin resurfacing treatments such as facial peels and laser therapy, women now have another option in their quest to become as pale as possible.

A new book by singer and actress Barbie Hsu (徐熙媛) revealing the artificial beauty secrets of the stars has become a bestseller in Taiwan and China, selling 800,000 copies in both countries since its release on Jan. 5, the online bookseller books.com.tw. said.

The Taiwanese bookseller Kingstone listed Beauty Queen 2: Female Celebrities Exposed as the number three non-fiction bestseller for last month.

The chapter in Hsu's book on whitening "needles," or intravenous drips, has become a hot discussion topic on internet forums for women fascinated by Hsu's claims about the treatment.

"Whitening needles are the female celebrity's most closely guarded secret," Hsu said in an extract of her book posted on the books.com.tw Web site.

"It's a complex mentality. People are more apt to accept those who improve their looks through lots of exercise or an exacting skin-care routine, but they may regard intravenous drips as a form of cheating," she writes.

"There is another reason that stars are unwilling to share the secret. As soon as everybody gets drips, the celebrity won't be considered particularly attractive anymore," she added.

"I don't administer them personally, but I have colleagues who do," Shu-tien Clinic dermatologist Cheng Hui-wen (鄭惠文) said. "There's been no serious research into the shots, but on a subjective basis many find the treatment efficacious."

"As they are usually a cocktail of anti-oxidants such as vitamin C and tranexamic acid delivered intravenously, there's probably no harm associated with them anyway," she said.

Cheng said that whitening "needles" are usually sold in courses of 10 treatments at NT$1,000 per treatment.

However, another dermatologist interviewed by the Taipei Times, who declined to be named, questioned the safety of "whitening needles."

"There are no standards, everybody has their own proprietary formula," she said.

"They put whatever they think might work in there, all in extremely high doses. There could be anything in there from vitamin C to gingko extract," she said.

A small number of women, however, are going for the opposite of whitening.

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