How to be the fairest of them all

Whitening is still a big beauty trend for this year. But many have asked: What's up with the obsession with fair skin?

It's not uncommon to see some women donning long-sleeved clothing on sunny days, or toting brollies around, rain or shine. And there are those who spend thousands on whitening products.

Mr Yasushi Sumida, director of Fancl Research Institute of Japan, said that Asians are more prone to producing melanin - stimulated by exposure to UV rays, and which causes pigmentation in the skin - than Caucasians.

And that can lead to unwanted sun spots.

He said: "That's why Asians tend to look into care for their spots and freckles."

Ms Dorothy Lim, a training manager at The Face Shop, said that the Asian obsession with whiteneing is partly cultural. She puts it down to a Chinese saying - "one white can cover up three uglinessess". She explains the meaning behind the phrase: "The belief is that a fair complexion can help hide flaws."

But even if you're not aiming for fairer skin per se, what whitening products do is help brighten your skin and eliminate uneven pigmentation, leading to a clearer, more radiant you.

Fresh from the research labs are products infused with natural ingredients - from botanical extracts to traditional Korean herbs.

But whatever products you apply in the hope of achieving a lighter complexion, get your basics right. Mr Sumida said that sunblock is a must, and recommends re-applying it at least twice a day.

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