The price of being beautiful

07 May 2006
By Irdiani Mohd Salleh

KUALA LUMPUR: To many women, Siti Nurhaliza is more than a beautiful girl with a beautiful voice.

Three out of 10 women in a survey by a market research company say they want a “fair and lovely” complexion like what Siti Nurhaliza has.

Erra Fazira is the choice of two out of the 10 women and Hong Kong artiste Sammi Cheng has one vote.

To many women, to be fair is to be beautiful.

Account assistant Norhani Sharim said a fair complexion could boost the confidence of women.

“When they feel they are beautiful, they will be more confident in what they do,” said Norhani, 27.

The survey by Synovate says many respondents feel they would look younger with a fair complexion and a whiter skin could cover wrinkles, age and dark spots.

Student Nelly Chia, 22, said Malaysian women were being bombarded by advertisements featuring fair-skinned models.

“This gives the connotation that a person has to be fair to be beautiful and to get the complexion, skin-whitening product is the solution.”

The survey, conducted in 2004, revealed that 41 per cent of 514 respondents in Malaysia were using skin- whitening products.

But how effective and safe are they?

National Consumer Complaints Centre manager Darshan Singh said the centre received 285 complaints on beauty products and services last year.
Topping the list were complaints about the ineffective services provided by beauty salons.

“Some of the products used by these beauty salons are not registered with the Health Ministry,” he said.

For decades, skin care product manufacturers worldwide have been using hydroquinone in their whitening products. However, it was found to be capable of causing skin cancer.

The Health Ministry’s pharmaceutical services deputy director, Dr Ahmad Mahmud, said the substance was classified as a scheduled poison.

Hydroquinone was among the most effective ingredients for lightening pigmentation.

It could also disrupt other biochemical processes and cause skin irritation, inflammation and blue-black blotches.

When housewife Rusini Dzulkifli , 43, began to use a skin-whitening product, she hoped that she would have a fairer complexion in a few weeks.

“After I was satisfied with the result and had the complexion that I wanted, I stopped using it.”

A few weeks later, her complexion turned darker than it was before she started using the product.

“My face was itchy and I had to seek treatment from a doctor get my skin back to normal.”