Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sting me white

Comments have been responded to! It may take me a while but I do appreciate them. Now on to regular programming...

I have to be extremely careful when I'm at the drugstore because while some of the products bear seemingly familiar names and logos, one of Japan's charming little idiosyncrasies is the propensity to add a little oompf to regular products by either mentholating them or adding a whitening agent. I may joke about being the resident whitie at the Kaisha, but frankly, I don't want to get much whiter than this.

A girlfriend of Indian (dot not feather) descent once used a skin cream from Japan that had an almost bleaching effect on her skin. She relayed the story of how her and some school friends shared the product around and she ended up with strange, patchy markings on her neck. Not only the Japanese brands, but some well-known European cosmetics companies also offer "white" product lines for the Japanese market. I can't begin to understand the chemistry of it, but I would be hard-pressed to believe that whitening your skin is not damaging.

While there may be no cosmetic damage, mentholated products also intrigue me. When I was a student here with a minor rash, I soon discovered that the ointment I had bought for it contained menthol, not an ingredient high on my list when I am applying it to skin delicate and raw from being scratched. Luckily the drugstores here do carry "normal" versions of the product you seek, but for those masochists out there, there is always the methol version. I wouldn't call the beau a masochist by any means (he would definitely answer "s" when posed with the common-in-Japan question of "s or m"?), but he has become attached to a mentholated body wash that apparently leaves you feeling fresh and rejuvenated. I tried it once and the pain I felt in certain areas I can only liken to that felt when bathing in the dead sea as a teenager. It really gives a new meaning to the phrase "fire in the hole."

Once while "holidaying" up North at the beau's family home, I had to buy some contact solution at the local 7-Eleven having forgotten mine in Tokyo. The following morning when I went to put my contacts in my eyes, sur-fucking-prise! mentholated contact solution! If that doesn't wake you up while simultaneously giving you a stoned, blood-shot look, I don't know what will.

For the menthol-inclined smoker, Japan is a veritable paradise. Not only does Marlboro sell "Black Menthol" brand cigarettes (best described as the king of all menthol cigarettes), but Kool has a line of cigarettes where you have to physically pop a menthol capsule embedded in the filter with your fingers for the menthol goodness to seep out. High tech, I know.

This is my version of a gaijin public service announcement: please take care so that you don't end up bleached or stung by some unexpected menthol dear readers - it's a bit like navigating a jungle out there.

12 comments:

Samantha said...

My step mom and aunt use whitening cream! I always wondered what would happen if a non-asian like me accidently used it...

Julie Lavoie said...

So glad to see you posting! I check your blog everyday and am sad when there's not a new post for a while. :-P

Here in Thailand we have the whitening fad too, and everything has whitening in it. The funniest one is underarm deodorant -- I mean, I can understand wanting your face to be white, but your armpit? Are people really scrutinizing each other's armpits that much?

If whitening fails, there's always the other solution -- apply 10 layers of foundation/powder that's way, way whiter than your natural color, so you can see women with necks and faces that are radically different colors!

Thanks for letting me know about menthol, I will know to avoid it in Japan! :-P

kathrynoh said...

I get so sucked in by advertising I started to think I needed face whitening. My beautican said she'd kill me if I tried it!

Lisa said...

Mentholated CONTACT solution?!

Beth said...

Dammit! I thought those pop-the-menthol cigarettes were only in the States! I'm home now and I was gonna bring a few packs back to Tokyo for my menthol loving Japanese friends. Good thing you're here. Man, but if you're gonna smoke stupid menthol like everyone does in Japan, why would you NOT smoke those little pop-it ones? It's so SATISFYING. I want to pop an entire pack of them like bubble wrap.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Samantha: are they non-Asian? I think there are some whitening/correction products for non-Asians but it still scares me a little!

Julie: Thanks! I can't seem to catch up on anything these days. Funny about the deodorant, maybe they flash their pits a lot?! If you are ever in Japan, be sure to let me know!

kathrynoh: it's hard not to be, I find myself considering all manner of crazy products here!

Lisa: Yes. All I can say is BIG ouch!

Beth: I didn't know they sold them in the States! Maybe bring back some brands that aren't sold here, but Japan does have it pretty covered in that market. I had some people in the States smoke my black menthols and they just about died. And not in a good way!

Foggia said...

Introduction to the wiki article:

"Skin lightening or whitening is a controversial topic as it is closely intertwined with the detrimental effects on health, identity, self image, racial supremacy and colonial mentality.

There is evidence to suggest that some types of skin-whitening products use active ingredients (such as mercurous chloride) which can be harmful."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skin_whitening

Jus' sayin'

Julie said...

I used to have one whitening toner that was pretty good, though, actually, it had BHA/AHA in it, and mostly just stripped away dead skin on your face -- but that kind of whitening just takes away a tan if you have one, and makes your skin brighter by removing dead skin. I didn't really care about the whitening part, just the exfoliation but it's impossible to get cosmetics without whitening here.

I think the really damaging stuff is when people start bleaching their skin and trying to get whiter than their natural skin tone.

Anonymous said...

WHO IN THE NAME OF GOD WOULD MENTHOLATE CONTACT SOLUTION.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Foggia: I saw that too, it just can't be good...

Julie: Agreed. I think the ones marketed towards white women are more brightening solutions, rather than actual bleaching. I might need some on my nose after this damn summer sun.

Anon: People here in Japan apparently. It's great if you are feeling sleepy and need to be shocked awake!

wakanai said...

>>A girlfriend of Indian (dot not feather) descent ...

'dot not feather' is so hilarious and well-found, makes my toes curl and me coming back for more :)

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

wakanai: I wish I could take credit for it! As soon as I heard it I filed it away and was finally able to use it :)