Why People Risk Their Lives To Bleach Their Skin | Shady | Refinery29

Why People Risk Their Lives To Bleach Their Skin | Shady | Refinery29

One of the fastest growing sectors of the
beauty industry, is also one of its most controversial: Skin Bleaching. She will do the buying. When the color of your skin can determine
your future, how far would you go to be lighter? Having light skin, I think it is important
here. Skin tone matters, nowadays. And they prefer the white ones. When I was younger, they would always call
me, “pretty, but… Pretty but dark.” Whatever that fair girl embodies in my head is just someone that is just a little better than me. Skin bleaching, also known as skin lightening
or whitening, is a global market expected to grow to over 24 billion dollars in the
next decade. Advertisements pedaling products can be seen
across the globe. Asia holds the lion’s share of the market,
and at the heart of it lies the Philippines, with one of the highest rates of use in the
world. The Philippines is a country on the economic
rise, and its new money fuels the possibility of rapid social mobility. One of the most popular strategies to get
a leg up is skin bleaching. But at what cost? It’s estimated that 1-in-2 Filipinos have
tried skin whitening products. I wanted to understand why, so I went to meet
someone who’s shaping the face of beauty, not only in the Philippines, but across the
world. Dr Vicki Belo. It’s almost a status symbol, like having
a Hermes bag. It just sounds so politically incorrect that
I’m having a hard time. She’s a celebrity dermatologist who’s
built a skin lightening empire. What kind of treatments do you do here for whitening? We do scrubs, lasers, wet and dry dermabrasion,
capsules, intravenous. So we treat it from the inside, we treat it
from the outside. My motto is to make the Philippines the most
beautiful country in the world. And for many, that means skin whitening. Today what do you want to do? Your usual drip? Your Cinderella drip? One of the most popular procedures here is
an IV drip. Lean back. Are you okay? Are you comfortable? So we are about to see the Cinderella drip,
which is a mix of glutathione and Vitamin C. The star ingredient, glutathione, is a
controversial antioxidant to lighten the skin from the inside out. It hasn’t been approved for cosmetic use
by the FDA. Still, Dr. Belo’s clients are willing to
drop hundreds of dollars per session, taking on the risk, in hopes of getting whiter. I’ve done some Hollywood celebrities. People coming in from London! While off label glutathione requires more
research, Dr. Belo argues that it’s at least being done under medical supervision. I think you really get what you pay for. Cause some people, they just go for price. People actually risk their lives, just to
get whiter. Things that are coming contain mercury in the creams. That’s really destructive. That’s really poisonous, actually. Videos online and in the news have emerged showing harmful side effects for some of these products. Across the Philippines, women have reported
signs of mercury poisoning. The culprit: cheap whitening creams that often
sell for a little over a dollar. I wanted to know what these products were, and why people would risk using them for paler skin. It’s a serious concern. These kind of cheap skin whitening creams,
you can buy it everywhere. There’s one man fighting this issue on the
front lines: Thony Dizon, an activist at Ecowaste Coalition. We discover that skin lightening is a product
that has a mercury concentration and that there is a risk. A variety of ingredients can be used for skin
whitening. The basic idea is to slow melanin production. The less melanin, the lighter your skin. Vitamin C, hydroquinone and kojic acid are
some of the most common ones. But one of the cheapest and deadliest is mercury,
a heavy metal that can be toxic for humans, even in tiny doses. Repeated exposure, like smearing it on your
face every day, can lead to tremors, kidney failure and even birth defects. So mercury isn’t just an incidental contaminant,
it’s actually what’s bleaching your skin? It’s a serious concern. A public health concern. I couldn’t believe these products were on
the market. It turns out, they aren’t. Because they’re so toxic, these mercury
laced creams are banned by the government. But they’re still flooding into the country
at an alarming rate. And the reason behind it is shocking. Some customs people would hate me for this. Customs employees are in collusion with the
smuggling. What do you mean in collusion with the smugglers? They know that these containers contain beauty
products and they just let them slip through and they receive some bribes. It’s a culture in the bureau that it is immoral to let drugs and fire arms slip through customs. But beauty products don’t seem to fall under
that? No. In fact some have this perception that they
are helping Filipinos improve their appearance. It’s almost like the culture around skin
bleaching allows for this proliferation of illegal bleaching creams. Yes, definitely. It’s baffling. But customs agents actually think that they’re
doing people a favor by allowing cheap creams with mass appeal to hit the market, since
few can afford high end treatments. It makes for an uphill battle for Thony, but
he’s determined to crack down on this illegal activity. I’m riding along on an undercover buy, on
the condition that I stay in the car, and protect his colleague’s identity. What we’re gonna do is we’re gonna put a hidden camera on her. She will do the buying. So the hidden camera has been positioned in
her bag and it’s pointing directly outwards and she’s going to wear her bag on the front. She’s mic’d up and they have a couple
different people standing throughout the market who are both safety and to capture different
angles. Alright, so they just did the undercover buy
and let’s look at some of the products that you got. Armed with these creams, the next step is
to take them back to test just how dangerous they are. But why do people take these risks at all? Do you think that people who were buying the
products, like in that store for example, know how dangerous they are? What do you think about all the whitening
products? Skin whitening products that I used were glutathione
pills, papaya soaps, whitening soaps and lotions. They’re not looking to be white like a white
person, they’re just looking to be lighter skinned because historically that’s what
they perceive as not only beautiful, but also powerful. For more than 400 years, the Philippines was
ruled by one foreign power or another. Spain, the United States, and even Japan for
a brief period of time. The Japanese occupation was celebrated by
the invaders with a parade through the center of the city. The island nation finally declared its independence
in 1946. But centuries of outside rule have shaped
beauty standards to prize pale skin. It’s a legacy that’s very much alive today. Charlene is one Filipina who attributes much
of her success to her skin tone. She’s an influencer with over 200,000 followers. Hold that, looking great. My instagram, there are a lot of countries
following me. They are like, “Oh you look so great, your
skin is so fair.” In the Philippines if you have fair or lighter
skin, you’re more prettier, you’re more beautiful and you have a lot of advantages. Like many Filipinas, Charlene’s beauty routine
includes a daily whitening regimen. I have morning and I have evening routine. So this is cortisone soap. I’m using this for six years now. And you use it all over your body and your
face. Yes, I use it on my body, I use it on my face. So I drink this once a day before I sleep. It looks like this. And in the morning I feel my skin gets glowy. So the day I don’t whiten my skin, I gave
birth to a dark beautiful baby girl. And I don’t want my daughter to feel the
same insecurity that I went through. People lighten their skin just to increase
their attractiveness to the opposite sex. I was starting to understand. Skin whitening is pervasive in the Philippines
because for so many people, it represents the opportunity for something more. Skin tone isn’t just about skin. It is about class. Everybody that uses these products are very
clear about the economic benefit. That far outweighs any risk. Back at the Ecowaste headquarters, I’m about
to find out just how much risk there is. Why are you putting gloves on? Ah, yes. Because this product has chemical so you don’t
want to expose. Especially because I will be touching the
product. And at the same time we open up the windows
since we suspected that this product has mercury. This is a point and shoot device. The screen will show the concentration of
mercury. So I have sort of an idea of what these numbers
mean, what are the legal limits of mercury in these products. For our country, it has a limit of one part
per million. One part per million. Okay. Yes. This cream here is this bright yellow, almost
custard-y consistency. Trying to hold my breath. Now you will see. Wow, so this is over four times the legal
limit. More than, more than. It’s 42,000. This isn’t in percent, so if you were
going to convert it times one hundred or times one thousand, this is 42,000. This is way, way beyond. I thought that it was shocking that it was
four times the amount that was allowed, it’s 42,000 times the amount. Thony and I tested every cream they bought. Way beyond the limit. Jar after jar contained mercury at illegal
and alarming levels. This is a little bit lower, but it still has
mercury. So these products here are banned, they’re
illegal. But we just bought them today. Is that safe to say then that they are still
being imported, they are still being smuggled in. Exactly. With results from our testing in hand, Thony’s
come to Quezon city hall to demand they remove these products from the streets. We don’t want this situation to worsen up. We don’t want to hear any more victims of
this mercury exposure. What is at stake with the work that you’re
doing? It is very important in the country because
nobody does it. Ecowaste is the only one doing this. The reality is, people in the Philippines
and across the globe will continue to use skin whitening products and until the culture
that privileges lighter skin changes, it’s people like Thony, who look out for consumers
to make sure products are safe. We’ve been out here for a few hours waiting
for Thony, waiting on the news of whether or not the government’s actually going to
take action to try to seize all of these really toxic illegal products. Ahh! We got it! The meeting was a success. Wow! So what happened? We got the support of all the agencies who
will do the law enforcement action. So because of your investigation, they’re
now looking into it and you’re going to get these products off the street? Yes and we will still continue! Victory. Yes, victory moment! It may seem like a small step, but Thony’s
tireless work makes the world of beauty a little bit safer. And that progress is something to root for. Thanks for watching Refinery29. For more videos like this, click here. And to subscribe, click here.


  • Refinery29 says:

    Have you ever heard of skin bleaching products before? Share your opinions on what the use of these products really means.

  • Julieta V says:

    It's intriguing (for me, at least) how some cultures have different beauty standards. Here in South America it's very common not to use sunscreen and use oil, coke or tanning creams; and to spend entire hours roasting yourself in the sun once spring has begun or in a tanning bed. You get discriminated against for being pale or laughed at for using sunscreen during your beach holidays. And many enjoy having their skin burnt so badly by sun exposure that it looks as red as a tomato since it means that your skin will be darker in a couple of days. Yet in the Phillipines and many Asian countries, people seek to be as white as possible due to earning more benefits, despite the risks it poses to their health.

    Please, don't bleach your skin or spend a massive amount of time suntanning. Loving yourself and being healthy is what makes you beautiful.

  • jason harvote says:

    Skin bleaching now thats a first for me i never heard of something so stupid lol.

  • Bernadette Lanuza says:

    It disapoint me how my country philipines have to risk their lives just to have lightend skin they should appreciate the true colors of filipinos morenas and morenos it breaks my heart to see people actually doing this for perfection.

  • Phila Art says:

    Beautify yourself, but do not risk.🙌

  • miya kirisaki says:

    "andun daw siya kuya sa may jollibee"
    Translation: Okay, this is it

  • MooXeeN says:

    should do like cigarette packets with pictures of the consequences of using the product.

  • Nicole Alipio says:

    Am a pilipino but i like my skin i dont want a lighter skin

  • Nellie says:

    Brown skin girl your skin just like pearls 🎶✨
    I used to love visiting asia but this obsession with white skin scare the hell out of me, the brownly proud i am would feel awkward and unwelcome there

  • my angel hero24 says:

    Am Pilipino but i love my tan skin lol hahaha learning to accept yourself then you'll love yourself more than you ever thought when the times you keep on hating yourself

  • j o y says:

    3:41 wait a minute…..SHE USED ON HER SON????😡😡😡😡😮😮

  • anony mouse says:

    What fascinates me is that in countries in SE Asia white or pale skin is seen as a sign of success and wealth. In the West we try to achieve a darker skin by sun bathing and tanning creams because that is a sign of wealth – i.e it means you can afford to py for exotic holidays! It just doesn't make sense.


    Lady around 2:04 is fuckin' scary, dude! Jesus fuck, take it easy with those fillers

  • Shannon Ross says:

    Meanwhile us white folk are out here using sun beds and tanning products to be DARKER. People always want what they don’t have.

  • Brittany Von Rissen says:

    My whole life I've been told I'm too pale 🤦 Beauty standards are BULL!!!!

  • Mia Rants says:

    I’ve thought about trying to get lighter skin because I’ve had many people tell me they didn’t wanna b with me because they’re not into black girls and I’ve cried myself to sleep so many times over it. I don’t wanna do it because I don’t ever want my children to think they have to do it in order to b beautiful or loved and accepted by people. But I also don’t want them to feel the way I have most of my life because I’m dark.

  • Sam Reyes says:

    Who can say they love their tan deep skin tone? 🙋🏻‍♀️🙋🏻‍♂️

  • PurpleSpacePanda says:

    Everyone wants what they can’t have. I’m quite possibly the whitest person you’ll ever meet and all I want is to be tanner.

  • Melissa says:

    The Philippines is a mess, in more ways than one, and, as a Filipino-American, I’m ashamed. I’m incredibly thankful that I love my tanner/darker skin tone.

  • Manuel Delgado says:

    white is best

  • Arissa Mon says:

    Thanks god I born in lighter skin..not to be racist.. But, at least i am not like those people obsession to be white skin…the honest, i loves to see people with dark,tan skins…please, dont risk yourself with bleaching products

  • IM A BTS TRASH says:

    I just want CLEAR SKIN thats it

  • Louise G. says:

    This is so sad 😞

  • Doan Tran says:

    I hate the fact that they still use skin bleaching products even though they know it's bad for them, but I understand why they want to do it and I just hate myself for that.

  • Ieva Raudel says:

    I used to be SO insecure about having too light skin! And here people doing this…

  • Lazy Nana says:

    Yes, since I was a kid, people always making fun of me bcs I have dark skin for asians. Even my mom forced me to wear skin lightening product. They say dark skin aren't pretty. I always getting compared to my cousins who has lighter skin. It's sad

  • liz morrison says:

    If you're going to worry about mercury, why not challenge the THOUSANDS times the limit they put in vaccines to inject into children included?.. how about mercury fillings??.. this is all by design to get people to destroy themselves and the reason it continues is because that's what the elite want.. yo think they couldn't stop it if they wanted to??

  • Jesus rocks says:

    I thought this was just in Africa then korea now Philippines! I have a campus friend who bleaches i feel so bad for her i want her to feel pretty in her skin but lighter women are liked in most parts of africa

  • Maddux Vas says:

    She need go Jamaica 🇯🇲… #freeworldboss

  • Holly Cruz says:

    Wtf is someone tryna knock off the whole race of of Filipinos now convincing them to all get lighter skin ? With all the high levels of Mercury contained In the beauty products knowing how harmful and dangerous it is to there health I wonder if some of these women even know exactly whats in the products they are using and why are these people being brainwashed into believing whiter skin is better ? This is a whole mess over there and it's really sad

  • Holly Cruz says:

    Tony is one of the only ones over there with some common sense God bless him

  • Valeria Del Rio-Rodriguez says:

    The same whitening issue and the crazy high amount of people using the cheap alt. Is also happening in south africa due to most of the population being black and most people also get it illegally because the gov. Is also against it due to its toxicity

  • Samiha Khondoker says:

    "Why are you putting gloves on?"

  • malini venkatakrishnan says:

    wtf is wrong with this people?

  • Svetlin Dimitrov says:

    American moron… 4 times or 42000 times… idiot

  • קריסטינה קניג says:

    I like my skin as light as possible but I use stuff like AHA, vitamin C, sunscreen…

  • kissnote21 says:

    End of the day, It's still people decision whether they want to get their skin bleach or tan.

  • mammoth91377 says:

    The lady in the background at 0:57 is doing some serious digging lol

  • Peter Quail says:

    paano kung si dating maitim nag Bleach at nakapag-asawa rin ng dating maitim na nag Bleach paglabas ng anak nila mestisa mestiso? ngeeekkk!!!

  • Jewel justjewel says:

    this is sick

  • Arianne Laviste says:

    Chacha pega actually has fair skin since in highschool. We studied in the same school together.

  • kalyan teja says:

    i live in philippines and i'm an indian. luckily im kinda white but most of us are dark or brown and we get discriminated for not being white.. and when we got to know all these so called white skinned filipinos got fake ass skins… using pills, IV drips,lotions and botox etc… why can't you just be proud of what you have? i didnt use any kind of skin care products and still white. and also i dont feel insecure seeing people who got brighter skin than me cuz i know it's fake lol. BE YOURSELF PIPOL. BE THANKFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE. STOP PRAISING KOREANS FOR HAVING WHITE SKIN. you know they're fake too. NO OFFENCE TO ANYONE. JUST SAYING. BESIDES I GOT SOME FILIPINO FRIENDS TOO 😀 ….. IM A DOCTOR BTW

  • rynziee ee says:

    You guys are doing a great job…👍

  • Liega Regari O says:

    Philippines 🤘🖐️🖐️🖐️🖐️

  • Liega Regari O says:

    I like your documentary so much helpful to many…labyou

  • Pls WaLuigi Dom Me says:

    so no one's going to talk about the woman @0:57 that's picking out her butthole???

  • Deidra Zimmerschied says:

    Yikes no thank you I'm already a pale pasty new Englander and I burn if I don't wear sunblock nor will I have orange fake tan sprayed on me!

  • Q says:

    while i'm over here using tanning lotions LOLL

  • αm a hoε says:

    Someday society must understand that people aren't only skin and appearance!

  • Chynax says:

    Imagine being albino in the Philippines

  • nurul syifa says:

    I'm asian.. and my skin is considered as dark here.. but I won't touch any whitening products girllll.. embrace your colour girl, you are pretty just the way you are..

  • anyone can learn says:

    most asian dreams to be a whiter skin number 1 reason is discrimination being a dark skin symbolizing a low class citizen you are exposed more of the sun meaning a labor worker under the blazing sun.

  • قناة منوعات says:

    If u come to sudan u will die

  • Lancerious says:

    Sad, since dark skin is very beautiful too.

  • Sa May says:

    10:19 ooo I have that n it’s clear ur skin 💯

  • Peace Happy says:

    Seems bleaching is in all the non white communities. Those ppl aren't even dark, wonder what they would do if they were dark like blacks or Indians (south asians). Beauty for me is being healthy, fit n looking like the best version of yourself.

  • Clarissasan says:

    And im trying to be tan lmaoo

  • CrowdPleeza says:

    Let's keep in mind that darker skinned people have more protection from sun damage. Because they have more melanin. This is why darker people rarely get sunburn and skin cancer from the sun. The darker you are the more sun protection you have.

  • Hor crux says:

    When I was a child growing up in Germany, people always made fun of me. They said I looked like a bag of meal. Just when your skin was tanned you were considered as beautiful. Thank god this changed in the last years.
    When I went to Asia, Asian Girls admired me so much. I was called beautiful and goddess because of my skin and my green eyes. It was really weird, some people asked me which skin products and contactlinses I use. Asian people are crazy about western beauty standards. I really wish for them that they could start accepting who they are and that people from all over the world are beautiful in their own way.

  • gacha_ meep says:

    I saw ya'll i was in that market in that time lol

  • Isabella Espinosa says:

    Imaoo i want to get tanner when they want to get lighter 😂😂

  • Brenda acevedo Sanchez says:

    I really don't care what people do to there skin if only if there doing it right thing

  • Karima Nouri says:

    There lives let people do what they love

  • Maersel says:

    I guess I'm lucky being born white?

  • DatBwoiXERXESdem says:

    Some people do mercury some people do heroin and some people drink coca cola, life goes on who cares

  • G. Confa says:

    That's why I sunbathe on the roof, to say at least I went on holiday somewhere.

  • G. Confa says:

    Let's bring the most pale woman to perform the interviews.

  • Nathalie R says:

    I’m so pale you can be because I am a natural redhead and I hate it. Always been bullied because of it. I just want to have a tan

  • Hello says:

    This is not my quote but it’s something I’ve heard from others

    “You can be the ripest peach but some people just don’t like peaches”

  • TiO Onlineshop says:

    Everyone have beautiful by their own way. Be confident on your self.

  • Mitch Stellar says:

    Proud morena In this world full of gandang gluta.

  • Camryn Hankins says:

    And yet in America light skinned girls get spray tans to be darker

  • Lana says:

    Personally I really wanna have lighter skin

  • Krystal Perree says:

    Embrace yourself for who you are! Everyone is beautiful

  • xoxochad says:

    This video was fantastic. It's this kind of content and journalism that's important and that makes change. Thank you Refinery29.

  • mervin aquino says:

    Yes I used bleaching soap only… To lighter my skins tone

  • Shadow S says:

    The skin doctor is so plastic and tight she can barely talk.

  • Shadow S says:

    Try putting potato juice on your face and under eyes , you will be amazed with the results.

  • MZ de Guzman says:

    As a fellow Filipino I know what it feels like wanting be lighter.

    I think it’s cause that’s what we think is beautiful and is what is more acceptable, in my perspective that’s what I thought

  • Alysa Morin says:

    When I throw so much money on tanning these chicks actually want to BLEACH THEIR SKIN?? Smh..

  • Alex Martins says:

    this video is sick in so many levels

  • Kha’Shiya Rn Journey says:

    This makes no sense! Like they’re already light ! Insecurities are a mf ! Love yourself fr

  • Time Adventures says:

    I don't feel sorry for anyone who dies or suffer skin problems whilst trying to look white. Go ahead, keep poisoning your bodies trying to be what you are not. Oh yes, I am black and proud to be black. What a sad world we live in.

  • Umu ibtisam says:

    Iwonder why people pleaching they skin Every one is beutyfull How GOD has to choice

  • Graham Nalepa says:

    " I want to understand why they want lighter skin " … says the fake blonde 😂

  • Jacqueline Muthoni says:

    Why say 'treat' it like darker skin is a disease. This is soo sad to watch as a 22 yr old black girl

  • Elle C says:

    I tried bleaching mine when i was younger…. It was painful… 100% dont recommend.

  • Elle C says:

    I tried bleaching mine when i was younger…. It was painful… 100% dont recommend.

  • BTS Talent says:

    The reason why i'm paler than my family (i'm mexican) is because I never go outside. Some mistook me for being white even. But because I don't go outside I have low vitamin D. So….

  • skz stays says:

    in my country me being pale is something that im made fun of,while in asian countries thats considered beautiful

  • Miss Anthrope says:

    Weaker stuff to help even skin tone and discoloration is a skincare staple for many of us women of color. But straight up skin bleaching is quite extreme.. the young lady getting that shitty "Cinderella Drip" in her veins brought tears to my eyes. Melanin is a beautiful blessing. Don't use anything that is strong enough to get rid of it.

  • Janine Kennedy says:

    Yeah I’m just back from my spray tan.

  • Guillen天使 says:

    I'm so happy I'm tan. wouldn't ever wanna be light skin.

  • Ari says:

    insanity, I have no words.

  • L.A. Chacin says:

    You could make the same documentary in India, Pakistán, South Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, the US, Jamaica, Haití, South África, the Middle East…skin bleaching through creams or fruits like lemon is done almost everywhere.

  • Nnamdi Nzewi says:

    It's evil and sin against God to bleach your skin….God hates changing of your skin colour. .

  • _Forg _ says:

    I just don't want pimples on my face. I love my brown skin

  • all my potatoes got burnt says:


  • Jasmine Loren says:

    Well y'all commenting about north Americans spending hundreds of dollars to tan, while we Filipinas try to lighten our skin. It's because we have different cultures. If we have lighter skin we get less bullied, more doors of opportunities for job, we are not that "uling" girl. It's just if you have lighter skin you'll be envied instantly by everyone.

  • Julio Mendes says:

    shame on all who take this kind of products hoping to be more handsome or find a better job stop your escuses you have no pride for what you are

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