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Standards of beauty in Thailand: White skin, injections and diet



Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 16/06/2024, 10:45

Hi, I'm Joanna, the author of The Blond Travels. In the worlds of Thailand and Portugal, I feel like a fish in water - and it's no coincidence! I've been exploring Thailand for over a decade, and I've settled in Portugal for 6 years now. My mission is to support Dreamers - just like you - in discovering these fascinating countries and helping those in love with them find their own place on Earth, preferably for good! Let's uncover these unique corners of the world together.

Thailand is famous for its beautiful women. Thai ladies are considered to be the most beautiful in the world. Many don’t realise, however, that the cult of beautiful skin, face and body takes very extreme forms and the price that people pay in Thailand to look a certain way is very high.

In Europe it’s common to argue the standards of beauty that are dictated by magazines, films, TV and celebrities. We want to be natural and just be ourselves. We might think that this is something that happens everywhere and that in other countries men and women also like to celebrated their natural looks. If we are used to hearing that it’s OK to be a bit bigger, have wrinkles and freckles and it’s fine not to wear make-up, we might be a bit shocked when we find out what Thai people think of as beautiful.

The Land of Smiles is totally in a different place than us. What we might think of natural and beautiful, they consider not to be very aesthetic. In Thailand looking after yourself and being pretty is not only very important, but it’s a part of the culture.

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    Standards of beauty in Thailand

    What Thai people like and what they think of beautiful is different from what you and I might think of being attractive. Below you iwll find a few interesting facts about beauty standards in Thailand. When reading this article, remember that Thai culture is different from ours and it’s not up to us to judge it and change it.
    Just think of this as an interesting fact to read about.

    White skin – The number one desire

    When you are in Thailand, you will notice a lot of whitening cosmetics. These are lotions, soaps and creams that are supposed to make your skin look brighter and whiter.

    In Thailand white skin is a sign of belonging to a higher class. This is an opinion that comes from the past, when the neighbouring countries were colonies and the Europeans, with their pale skin, where their rulers. Colonising countries had more money, more respect and more power.

    The desire of having whiter skin leads to extreme procedures. First of all, cosmetics, which are commonly sold everywhere and whiten your skin, are considered unsafe to use. They contain harmful chemicals, such as mercury.
    Many young people don’t want to stop with cosmetics. They buy injections online. Using them, without consulting a doctor, leads to seizures, or even death.

    On the internet you can read stories of many people, who died or were in hospital after using injections to whiten their skin.

    Thai celebrities also make this cult of white skin more and more popular. On TV actors and actresses are so white they are nearly transparent. The exception is Miss Thailand – Pornprom Sabhaya, who is called the Black Beauty because her skin is quite dark. It’s one of not many Thai celebrities, who try to change the perception of black and brown skin tone in Thai society.

    How to not lose (a beautiful) face?

    In Thailand the concept of ‘face’, rak saa naa, your honour, is very important. A lot of aspects are based on having and protecting face. Generally speaking, a Thai person doesn’t want to admit that they are not right, or they don’t know something. An employer is always right and if you want to disagree with someone or tell them off, you need to do it carefully, so you don’t offend them and, at the same time, don’t lose your own face by shouting at the person.

    Rak saa naa is not only about protecting your honour. To be a respected part of the society, you need to look after your body and your physical face. Make-up, clean, tidy clothes, covering your shoulders and knees are all a sign that we are good, respected people.

    It’s a good country to be slim

    We can generalise here a bit and say that Thai people are quite slim and small. Comparing to the Europeans and Americans, they are smaller.
    The country, however, is struggling with obesity. Fatty street food and lack of exercises contribute to an increasing number of people who are overweight. According to Wikipedia, 32% of Thai people are obese.

    People who weigh more than an average Thai, who are bigger, are often a subject of jokes. They don’t really have an easy life.
    An attractive person is not just slim, but very thin. Many people, men and women, are dieting, consuming slimming tables, not eating properly.


    An average, respected Thai person takes a shower a couple of time per day. This is more common in big cities, where the access to warm water is better.
    Smelling nice is extremely important. Just switch your TV on and check what kind of commercials they run. They are usually ads of toothpaste, washing detergent, perfumes, which all smell flowery and promise that thanks to them you’ll be more attractive.

    How to find yourself in beauty standards in Thailand?

    As I mentioned, Thai culture is different from what you know and if you come here as a tourist, or live here, it’s not up to you to “fix” it, or change it. As a foreigner you might not always have the full view of these practices, but if you want to move to Thailand, then it’s worth following certain rules.

    • If you’re visiting an immigration office, or have to go to a bank to open an account, it will be easier to sort things out if you look clean and formal. Cover your arms and knees, brush your hair. Thais love make-up, so it’s worth applying it a bit, too. Having a stubble or a long beard (especially if it looks untidy) is not perceived as a good look.
    • Maybe it will sound funny, but I think some people forget to take a shower. Again, if you’re visiting an immigration office, or apply for work at schools, please don’t forget to take a shower.
    • If you’re at the beach, you can sunbathe. Of course, a Thai person will hide from the sun. However, they understand that foreigners want to have brown skin.
    • A bathing suit, a bikini is not shocking to the locals. They are used to it. But, if you go to a shop, for a walk around a town and especially to a temple, please don’t forget to cover yourself, at least put shorts and a t-shirt on (different rules apply to going to temples).
    • Thai people are quite tolerant towards foreigners and they know that we don’t dress nicely when we’re on holiday (in their opinion). If you live in Thailand and want to make friends with Thai people, remember to put a bit more effort into how your dress and don’t show off too much of your body (this applies for both men and women).