Who is the whitest of them all?
A fair complexion equals beauty in many cultures around the world. In Saudi-Arabia white is definitely the preferred skin tone for both men and women. But like most things in the world, the pressure of being fair is mainly placed upon the woman. Sadly, mothers and other female family members are the ones maintaining and contributing to this phenomenon.
Daughters will be kept inside the house and not allowed to play in the sun in fear of exposing the skin to the tanning effects of the sun. Never mind the health benefits such as obtaining vitamin D from the suns rays. The levels of vit. D of Saudi women are alarmingly low, one of the lowest in the world. Vitamin D deficiency causes multiple health problems to the mothers and the children. Complete veiling of the body would also have an effect on the low levels.
So the couped up girls spend their childhood mostly indoors while boys of course can do what they want and play outside all they like. Girls worry about their knees and elbows not becoming too dark from playing on the floor like their mothers warned them. It's very common to hear comments on children's skin tone here. People will even talk about their own kids to other people pointing out how this one is much whiter than that one. How this sister is so white and beautiful while the other is dark and ugly. I can't even imagine the damage this does to the girls self esteem.
When the Saudi girl starts menstruating their childhood is over and many will be forced by their families to suddenly veil their entire bodies. Check out how miserable blogger Omaima felt when she had to wear the abaya for the first time: http://omaimanajjar.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/how-i-felt-when-i-wore-an-abaya-for-the-first-time/
Reaching puberty will also further increase the pressure of a whiter skin tone and this is when many girls start trying different treatments.
When Saudi men start seeking for brides they inform their mothers who then start looking for potential wives at weddings and other social functions. Young women will come to show off to weddings for this very reason. The man will often have a few desires on his list of requirements of the woman's appearance. Most often than not, white skin tone is on the top of the list. Second in line would come straight hair, perhaps large boobs, small nose. Seriously, men say these things to their mothers! As if they are in search of cattle.
Under this immense pressure to have a white skin tone and keeping in mind how it might raise their chances of landing a good husband, the Saudi woman will go to great lengths to obtain a pale complex. Some mothers will be obsessed with the daughters skin tone from birth which continues this vicious cycle.
Most women will opt for whitening creams which are extremely popular around Asia and the ME. I personally never saw so many types and brands of whitening creams in my life. Most are marketed to give you a "healthy glow".
When I first moved to the Kingdom I remember searching for a TANNING cream at the pharmacy. I was in awe of all the whitening products and while browsing the aisle an Arab male pharmacist approached me. He took a jar from the shelf and asked me "I think this is what you're looking for ma'm". I looked at the product, wondering how on earth could this man telepathically know I was searching for a self tanner. But lo and behold what the pervert had just suggested! It was a whitening cream specifically for private parts! I other words your VJ!
I wanted to slap him right then and there but could not utter a word from my disgust and amazement. I just turned around and walked away.
After I recovered from my initial shock I was able to think about it. Why would a woman put something potentially harmful on her private parts just to please a man?Why would someone want to bleach their VJ for God's sake? Is this one of the requirements Saudi men have for their brides? Can you believe they have a website dedicated to whitening your tidbits?http://vaginalbleaching.org/
So there are all sorts of whitening creams out there. Also, all sorts of home-made whitening creams are available. They are the most sought after products because they contain ingredients that are banned from the market. Anything that has been banned for sale because of harmful ingredients should be avoided like the plague right? Nope.
Now this reminds me of a tragic story of one young bride to be.
A teenage Saudi girl was engaged and in preparations for her wedding, had obtained one of these whitening products available on the black market. A while after she had started using it she got an eye and skin infection. The infection did not improve with oral antibiotics and she was taken into the hospital for treatment.
After a while the infection was so bad it has reached her eyes and they had to remove her eyeballs. They could not control the infection. She lost both her eyes. She was in the hospital for weeks but doctors were not able to cure her. Finally the infection spread into her bloodstream and days after she passed away.
What an unnecessary, sad and maddening death! An innocent hopeful bride that just wanted to look more beautiful on her wedding day. Just because the society she lives in tells her she is not beautiful enough as she is, this tragedy had to happen. Just because of this sick twisted mentality of admiring white skin, a beautiful soul was lost.
Another strange way way of skin whitening is applying camel urine on the skin. yes, camel urine! It's true that camel urine has been proven to have whitening qualities. But who would want to rub it on their faces? Some women.
I had a patient whose family was into this camel urine and milk treatment. Don't get me wrong, camel's milk and urine have many proven health benefits, just check this article: http://blueabaya.blogspot.com/2010/06/camels-milk-urine-potential-cure-for.html
But one of the daughters had taken it to the extreme. She seemed surprisingly white compared to the others. She told me her secret was applying camel urine on her skin everyday, and mentioned how it works for female area as well. What? Now that can't be healthy! Just another example of the extreme measures women will go through for whiter skin.
Funny how most women in the west like to get a tan and hate pale complexions. I have to admit I used to be the kind of girl that always went to the beach for tanning and in Saudi I spent all my days off at the hospital pool enjoying the sunshine. In the west some women take tanning to the extreme using spray tanning, tanning booths and so on resulting in a year round "healthy glow".
You won't find many tanning booths in Saudi though, just go to any beauty salon in Saudi and instead they actually have whitening booths! Salons will have a wide variety of skin whitening treatments available. One of the newest trends is using laser.
It's really sad to witness this phenomenon in Saudi and elsewhere in the world. My daughter has already been effected by it. It's always pointed out how white she is. I have been requested by my husbands family members not to take her out in the sun so she wouldn't get tanned. When we got back from our summer holiday in Finland, where we spent most of our time out in the sunshine my daughter had tanned quite a lot and I heard some pretty negative comments on her new color.
I love that my daughter has a darker complexion than mine, I think it's beautiful. In Finland she is "dark" but in Saudi she is "white". I wish people would stop looking at the surface and look deeper for beauty in the person. The outer color really does not matter.
P.S. If you liked this post or if you're just a really, really nice and beautiful person, with an extra 37 seconds to spare, then would you please pretty please click here :http://2012.bloggi.es/ to vote for Blue Abaya at the 12th Annual Weblog Awards! Few days left for voting and Blue Abaya is nominated as Best Asian Blog. THANK YOU!!