Skin Whitening Creams the Rage in Asia

MAKHAM KHU, Thailand Neighbors gawk and children yell, "ghost!" The manager of the restaurant where Panya Boonchun worked simply told her she was fired.

The cream that she applied to her face and neck was supposed to transform her into a white-skinned beauty, the kind she saw on page after page in women's magazines and on television.

But rather than lighten her complexion, the illegally produced lotion she bought in a local grocery store near this village in southeastern Thailand disfigured her skin into an unsightly patchwork of albino pink and dark brown, a condition that doctors say might be irreversible.

At a time when whiter skin is being aggressively marketed across Asia as beautiful and healthy, Panya's case illustrates the lengths that some women will go to change their complexions - and the dangers that this sometimes entails.

The vast selections of skin-whitening creams on supermarket and pharmacy shelves are testament to an industry that has flourished over the past decade, with 4 out of 10 women in Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan now using a skin-whitening cream, a survey conducted by Synovate, a market research company, found.

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