Tan or white? Different cultures suggest different standards

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When the seasons change from summer to fall, many Asian girls start their repair and whitening routine to get rid of their suntanned skin tone. However, at the same time, many American girls go to tanning stores and pay for a tan bath in order to get a beautiful, evenly honey skin.

Walk in the cosmetic stores, and many Asian girls would choose to buy lighter color foundation, which might originally be designed for white people. And many Asian celebrities love to make their skin look like white as pale. But many American celebrities tend to have darker, skin colors.

There are a large beauty standard differences between Asian girls and American girls on skin tone.

Vanessa Xie

MAC’s foundation products was designed for various skin color

So I interviewed several girls from different backgrounds about their opinion on whitening and tanning and their beauty standards for skin tone.

Vanessa Xie

Xiuyan Luo

Xiuyan Luo, Chinese, senior major in Hospitality Management

“I think tanning is interesting, I might try it in the future. I think tan is an American standard of beauty, I respect their choice. And it do really looks good on them. But I felt Asian would looks better if they have whiter skin. Maybe I was affected by Asian culture for so long, because many Chinese celebrities have very light skin color.”

“My identical skin should be smooth, poreless and even color. Of course, it would be better if the skin have lighter color.”

Vanessa Xie

These are Luo’s skincare products. From Left to Right: Express brighten serum, whitening lotion and whitening cream


Vanessa Xie

Luo working on her daily skincare routine


Cristina, MAC Sale at Macy’s

Vanessa Xie


Vanessa Xie

Cristina was rearranging products.






“Yes, I do notice that there are some beauty standards differences between Asian girls and American girls. For example, we have many international students here who tended to like lighter shades foundations such as porcelain and etc. It’s interesting because we have a lot of culture in U.S. We have Indian clients who told us they also have same trend prefer lighter skin.”

About tanning: “I think it’s personal decisions. But I wouldn’t do anything that will sacrifice my health, it’s just not worth it. Especially, nowadays there are lots of fake tanning. You can get spray tan or self-tan lotion. So why sacrifice your health?”

“I like whatever (skin color) comes natural. I do think that you should change your skin color drastically.”

Mayuko Iwata, Japanese, junior journalism student

Vanessa Xie

Mayuko Iwata

“I like to have my skin as white, because it is easier to make up. But my skin color is already dark compared to other Asian girls.

“There are some ways to make skin lighter in Japan, such as whitening pills or whitening injection. But I don‘t like any medical methods. But I do use whitening cream.

“Actually, tanning is like an old trend in Japan. Ten years ago, many Japanese girls liked to do tanning and get really dark skin color. So it is like pretty old to me, but I do think it helps you looks healthier.

“I think it is good to get tan naturally. I just don’t like use machine because there are lots of side effects.”

Diana Stewart, Optometrist

Vanessa Xie

Diana Stewart

“I have done it (tanning) a few times in the past. It was fine, but it was so bad for your skin so I don’t want to keep doing it. Overall, it is really bad for your skin in long term and it raises lots of risks for skin cancer. So it is just not worth it.”

“People just like have darker skin, they felt they look better with a tan. People always want what you don’t have. Like if you have straight hair, you want curly hair; you have light skin, you want darker skin. That’s just how girls work.”

“Everybody has different opinion on what is the best look on them. I probably would to be tanner than I am. Because I am Hispanic, but I am so light that people won’t even know I am a Hispanic. So I felt if I was darker, I will look more than what I am.”

Gowoon Lee, Korean, senior education student

Vanessa Xie

Gowoon Lee


“I would prefer whitening. I want to tone up my skin a little bit more. So I also use some whitening BB cream or sun cream.”

“But when I wear makeup I still try to match the color of my face and neck. Because I saw some celebrities, they might have super white face but darker neck. That is not natural.”

“I might try tanning, but definitely not now. I think I need to be more brave to do that.”

“In Korea, lots of celebrities on TV shows have really light skin color. And everyone believes that is the skin color a beauty should have. But most Asians’ skin color is more like already ‘tanned.’”

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