California Sun

At the Beach
The weather in Southern California has been pretty good lately. We’ve had a warmer than normal January – so far, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change for at least another week. The sunshine brings out the beach crowds and tanning bodies are everywhere. On all the beautiful beaches of Indonesian – not so much:

In search of whiter skin at the Michael Jackson Whitening House in Indonesia
By Will Carless – GlobalPost

As the Westerners cook themselves brown, a hundred meters down the street, at the Michael Jackson Whitening House, Indonesian men and women pay exorbitant fees to have their dark skin scrubbed, scraped and burned away with exotic chemicals.

Clients visiting the Whitening House for treatments on a recent afternoon expressed disbelief and confusion at the idea that light-skinned foreigners would voluntarily spend time in the sunshine, purposely darkening their skin.

“I’ve thought about it, but I just can’t understand these people!” said 26-year-old Ilyas Ardianto, who was at the Whitening House for a facial and “whitening mask.” “I really, really want to have white skin but those people are doing that to themselves — sun-tanning! It’s crazy.”

The Michael Jackson Whitening House is just one of several salons and clinics in this student-filled city of half a million in Central Java that offers skin-whitening treatments.

The salons, which are most popular with the city’s wealthy and young elite, offer a more extreme version of skincare that is already commonplace in Indonesia. In supermarkets and drugstores here, major brands offer a vast selection of skin-lightening products, from soap to lotions to “restorative” face masks that promise astonishing results.

Far from taboo, the cosmetic process of skin-lightening seems to have become a popular and mainstream form of self-beautification among young Indonesians. Interviews with several 20-somethings and teenagers in this city revealed that most young people find the use of skin-lightening products and the more extreme “treatments” entirely acceptable, if prohibitively expensive.

“I just feel more beautiful when I’m looking white,” said 21-year-old Dian Pertiwi Sulistianingtyas, who said she visits a whitening salon twice a month for cosmetic lightening facials. “Every day we see these people on television – actors, musicians, people like that – they always look so beautiful, so white!”

Indeed, Indonesian television shows, particularly the ubiquitous and hugely popular soap operas, almost exclusively feature extremely fair-skinned actors. In this country of more than 240 million people, this light-skinned “elite” has become a yardstick for stereotypical Indonesian beauty, fueling the demand for skin-whitening care.

Staff at the Michael Jackson Whitening House described the process of skin-lightening as returning a person’s skin to its most natural, meaning its lightest, brightest, color.

Read the rest here.

In the meantime, enjoy Sheryl Crow – Soak Up the Sun: