“A woman should always have fair skin,” she said proudly. “Otherwise people will think you’re a peasant.”
It’s been true throughout much of history: perceptions of what constitutes wealth have a strong impact on trends in beauty. This also goes for trends in body shape, if you consider that in some times and cultures plumpness was synonymous with being able to afford to eat well – a trend now largely reversed given the mass availability of fast food, and the high cost of a lifestyle filled with organic vegetables and gym memberships.
Similarly, Western perception sees tanned skin as the golden glow of a wealthy and luxurious lifestyle. It’s an enviable position, to be able to jet off to some Mediterranean resort when the weather is less than brilliant at home. But it turns out there are masses of women in China who see things differently: a tan, to them, is something you get from working out in the fields. It suggests you’re a peasant.
Chinese beachgoers have found an interesting way to combat the sun, one that goes beyond even full wetsuits and sun hats and even gloves. They’re opting for ski-style face masks.
Demand for the masks is apparently booming. But while China may be “a culture that prizes a pallid complexion as a traditional sign of feminine beauty unscathed by the indignities of manual labor”, it’s unlikely to be a trend that spreads West. We’re far too fond our sunglasses, hats, and rosy complexions.
Quote and images from the New York Times, where you can read more.