But that doesn’t seem to matter a lot these days, especially once I set foot inside any kind of store that sells skin-related products.
Yesterday, after we went out for a small family get-together, I asked to be dropped off at a department store. It wasn’t late yet, but since it was a Sunday night and my eleven month-old nephew was getting restless, I had to rush while the car went around the building, waiting for me to finish.
Now I generally stick to certain facial products once I’ve discerned that I am, as we call it in our mother tongue, “hiyang” to these. Other than excessive oil, I don’t have an urgent skin concern, and acne only bothers me when I’m stressed, approaching the time of the month, or (and this is most often the reason), sleep-deprived.
In fact, the last is the reason that my face has only started to recover from a new deluge of small pimples on my chin and a few on my right cheek. Thankfully, a friend recommended a BB cream from a certain well-known brand –one which is infamous for its whitening products. Hearing its name, I balked, but my friend assured me that they have a BB cream that isn’t meant to whiten skin, and that the formulation of their product is of the highest quality.
Eager to cater to both my skin care concerns (read: the first being skin-care pertaining to the ritual of washing, toning, and moisturizing and the second being blemish-control), I walked into the store last night with the recommended item already added to my usual mental list of toiletry must-have’s.
However, once I got to the shelf where the recommended product under this brand was displayed, I was a little confused because there were only two variations of the product: one for anti-aging and one for whitening, which annoyed me because I was interested in either; I thought, didn’t they have one that was just BB cream, full-stop?
Of course, it’s easy to point out given what I believe about the politics of whitening and how much people are willing to underestimate the gravity of politics behind the symbolism attached to black versus white, that I should’ve gotten the former. After all, logically speaking, it would be best to use anti-aging products early on, as a preventive measure. But then, I argued with myself, age-wise, I don’t feel the need to use any products of this kind; I also don’t believe that beauty is inversely proportional with age.
I looked at the other variation. It said it was for whitening. Then again, I argued with myself, I’m not exactly morena (a point on which, I am sure, patrons of whitening products would be eager to point out that “Hindi ka naman maitim kaya ang dali para sa’yo na sabihing mali ang magpaputi,” thereby with one stone diminishing the entire principle upon which the pro-woman and anti-imperialist sentiment is founded). In fact, in my family, I have the lightest skin tone and have often had to tell people that I am neither Japanese, Chinese, nor Korean — so what difference would it make if I used one tube of this product?
So in the end, I settled for the whitening variant. However, once I got home and examined the tube, I was dismayed with myself — and simultaneously, might I add, with the whole system itself — because the product promised to work its whitening magic from the inside out, and it was this promise, with its biological implications, that really irked me. I was annoyed with myself for being so caught up in making sure that my family wouldn’t have to wait too long for me, that I didn’t pick the other variant, as that now seemed the perfect choice
Still, when it comes down to it, I don’t really want that one, either. I mean, can’t a woman have all the other healthy-skin benefits associated with the brand without the promise of whiter skin or the call to the new fountain of youth?
Truth be told, it’s this kind of system that irritates me, for it is an ingenious and insidious marketing decision both, to assume that consumers will only want either of the two — anti-aging or whitening. Of course, as with many things these days, it’s a numbers game, and a vicious cycle, too. If more consumers seem to demand certain effects X and Y from a particular Brand A, why then of course Brand A complies, and via advertising, creates more demand.
More importantly, what offends me about the politics of it, is that it leaves you and me with little choice between what skin-care products we can buy. I dream of the day when I can once again walk into a store and not have to painstakingly go through every product lining the shelf in search for something that isn’t trying to convince me to become brighter, whiter, and therefore, it implies, better.
Where did this idea come from, I wonder, that every skin-related product for women has to have a whitening effect — to the point that even our “intimate areas” need to be given the same attention?
And not only women, but men, are being subjected to this whitening phenomenon! To what end? I don’t know. Right now, pressed for money (I have a strict budget for what I am allowed to spend on toiletries and makeup), I’ve already decided to use the BB cream I bought (and yes, in case you are curious, sans whatever whitening effect it promises to give my already light skin, it does go on as smoothly as promised and is better than other creams I’ve tried). I cannot wait until it runs out, however, so that I can start patronizing the other variant indefinitely — or, that is, until (yes, critical thinking and hope are not mutually exclusive, it seems) a third option (neither anti-aging or whitening) becomes available.
One may wonder why I didn’t mention the brand name (although it is glaringly obvious). To which I will only say: but that is besides the point.