WOMEN
09/25/2012 12:40 pm ET

Skin Whitening Where? Intimate Bleaching Product Advertised In Thailand

Grooming is time-consuming and expensive for lots of women -- how do we withstand (or afford) the combination of plucking, tweezing, threading, shaving, waxing, haircuts and colors, straightening treatments, manicures and/or self tanning we each undertake on a regular basis?

In Thailand, though, the beauty industry has taken "self care" to a new level: vaginal whitening.

A commercial for an bleaching product called Lactacyd White Intimate recently hit Thai airwaves, the Guardian reported this week. The cream promises to make the skin around women's genitals and upper thighs "fairer within four weeks."

The demand for such products stems from the belief common in the Asia-Pacific region that fair skin signifies a higher social class. Darker skin is often associated with outdoor labor like working in rice paddies, the New York Times explained early this summer, when an advertisement for a similar product appeared on Indian television. The Clean and Dry Intimate Wash TV ad implied that a woman who lightened her intimate areas would be more sexually attractive to men -- because the first thing a man looks for in any prospective girlfriend is a bleached vulva. Southeast Asia's skin lightening industry is expected to turn a $2 billion profit in 2012.

Critics of these products have called for more widespread media literacy and awareness of the health risks associated with skin bleaching, but according to BBC News, the market shows no sign of slowing down.

Ad man and cultural pundit Alyque Padamsee, who directed the Clean and Dry advertisements, told Open Magazine that people prefer whiter skin because it reflects more light:

The only reason I can offer for why people like fairness, is this: If you have two beautiful girls, one of them fair and the other dark, you see the fair girl’s features more clearly. This is because her complexion reflects more light.

What do you think of this trend? Tweet @HuffPostWomen, or sound off in the comments section below!

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