To be honest, this is actually 2 separate subjects, but I had to address them both together, for one relates to the other. This is also going to be a touchy subject, as I will effectively be saying to not support local industries, but some things have to be said.
I live in Malaysia and there is a thriving local beauty cottage industry, that is unfortunately, not premised on legitimacy nor integrity, but purely on making money. Lots and lots of money. Founders of such local brands are known as “Jutawan Kosmetik” or Cosmetics Millionaires, because they are. And they flaunt their wealth in the most ostentatious way.
* Images are used for illustration purposes only
I’ll preface this by saying that this is by no means a slur on legitimate local cosmetics businesses. How can you tell? There’s the real rub – you can’t. I could tell you that a legitimate cosmetics business will have some modicum of research behind it, or that it will have a proper ingredients list, and a proper company setup behind it, not just the face of one person flaunting their wealth and faces. Yet, as we all are aware, indie cosmetics companies often start out in someone’s kitchen, especially if they leverage on the current trend and demand for natural and organic skincare. Or they are formulated by a lab, which then sells the formula on an OEM (original equiment manufacturer) basis to be repackaged. Legitimacy therefore, is subjective and something to be earned, in my eyes.
I decided to raise this rather touchy subject, because locally, some beauty products have just been banned by the authorities for containing controlled substances. These are hydroquinone (skin lightening/whitening but can be carcinogenic) and tretinoin (treatment of acne but which can cause skin to peel). They are not banned substances per se, but may only be administered under medical advice, not sold to the general public. Prior to this, some products were banned for containing mercury (ostensibly used for skin lightening but which is also a poison).
For the most part, what I have observed over the years (these news crop up now and again) is that the creams and products that are banned usually target the one thing that local women actively seek – to lighten, or more accurately, whiten their skin. Locally, as in many parts of Asia, it is still widely perceived that fairer is better. There are ads on TV that tell you basically, that if you are fairer (or whiter) you’ll be more beautiful, more successful and be more attractive (Fair & Lovely anyone? 😛 )
It is no surprise therefore, that in the local market, whitening, or, the more politically correct term, brightening ranges of skincare bring in the bulk of a skincare brand’s income. It caters to what the people want, and it promises a whole host of things. Yet, I’ll state right here and now that I don’t use any whitening or brightening skincare. Not any more, and I’ll tell you why, based on my personal experience.