Thailand's skin-lightening craze (which includes products with such active ingredients as mercury) has reached new heights, with a widely advertised vulva*-bleaching product called Lactacyd White Intimate, made by the French company Sanofi Aventis, with an 80MM baht (approx USD2.6MM) advertising budget. The Guardian's Kate Hodal has more:
"Products [have] evolved from face-whitening to body and deodorant solutions to even out dark areas in the armpits," said Louis-Sebastien Ohl of Publicis Thailand, which created the adverts. "Now an intimate toiletry also offers a whitening benefit, because research evidenced that … women [we]re keen to have such a product."
In many countries across south-east Asia, fairer skin has long been equated with higher class as it suggests a life not spent toiling in rice paddies under the sun. The Thai language is peppered with cultural expressions that denigrate dark skin, such as the insult dam mhuen e-ga – "black like a crow". These days, rice farmers wear long sleeves, trousers, wide-brimmed hats and gloves. According to DRAFTFCB, the agency behind many of Nivea's skin-lightening ads in Thailand, such labourers provide the bulk of the Thai market for Nivea's face and body-lightening products.
* The Guardian describes it as a "vaginal lightening" product, but I assume they mean "vulva"