They call this place the 'Land of Smiles' and it quickly becomes obvious why when you meet the huge grins and kind eyes of Thai people everywhere. For me this has also become a world of natural beauty, where each and every one of our senses is stimulated in any one moment, from the hypnotic call of the various tropical birds, the sweet taste of cool, fresh coconut water, to the sights of the damp mist rolling in over the green mountains behind me and the scent of heady, woody spice which permanently hangs in the air. This place has completely got under my skin!
So I went to the local supermarket and pharmacies to have a look at what skincare needs Thai people have and must admit, was surprised and saddened to see the shelves absolutely crammed with products claiming to have skin-lightening properties - I admire the smooth, nutmeg skin of these people. This reminded me of the insatiable human spirit, how we are often searching for what we simply can't have and ironically, the UK fake tan market was worth £3.5 million in the first half of 2015 alone.
So what kinds of ingredients are in these lightening products? When I looked at random product labels Kojic Dipalmitate is commonly used - there is no research to prove this s effective in blocking melanin production in our skin, and can also cause skin irritation. Was also shocked to see the compound Tretinoin recurring along with Hydroquinine on a couple of product labels - these are known to irritate skin and the latter is banned in the EU due to its carcinogenic properties. Companies often add mild steroids into creams and serums containing these chemicals to reduce skin inflammation during use, which carries a high risk of skin thinning over time.
Thai skin is naturally designed to deal with humidity and heat at one of the earth's closest points to the sun, with its high oil and pigment content.
Over the years, I have formulated 100% natural, bespoke creams and facial oils for my clients with hyperpigmentation. Key ingredients include anti-oxidant rich Raspberry, Aloe, Bear Berries, Lavender, Lemon, Rose and Rosehip oils. Many of these clients have seen a vast improvement in their skin tone, specifically a clearer and more balanced colouration over the face.
This exercise has reminded me that we still have a long way to go in making skincare safe for people all over the world. It has also helped me to remember that being more content with what we have, leads to better health both in mind and body.