- Globally, the demand for whiteners continues to climb, especially in Asia, the Middle East and Africa
- The Asia-Pacific market is the most lucrative region, making up more than half of the global market
(CNN)The ridicule started at age 6.
Classmates would bully Fatima Lodhi, taunting her and other darker students with derogatory names.
It got worse as she got older. In high school, she was nominated for the "Makeover Required" category in her high school in Islamabad, Pakistan. And in graduate school, fellow students would yell "let's paint her white" whenever she crossed their paths.
"All this was done by my light-skinned fellows, just to make me feel bad," said Lodhi, a 28-year-old early childhood educator who started the anti-colorism campaign Dark is Divine in 2013.
The campaign conducts classes online and in schools on media literacy, confidence-building and inclusion, with the goal of teaching people to embrace themselves and be comfortable in their own skin. It has now reached more than 20 countries.
"Light skin, white skin, is still considered the ambassador of beauty," Lodhi said.
A recent study found that more than half of 1,992 men and women surveyed about product use in India had tried skin whiteners, and close to half (44.6%) felt the need to try such products due to media such as TV and advertisements.
Globally, the demand for whiteners is climbing, projected to reach $31.2 billion by 2024, up from $17.9 billion in 2017, especially in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, according to market intelligence firm Global Industry Analysts. Routine skin whitener use ranges from 25% in Mali to 77% in Nigeria, and it's 40% in China, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea, according to the World Health Organization.
Asia's growing market
But when it comes to these products, the Asia-Pacific market is the most lucrative region, making up more than half of the global market -- an estimated $7.5 billion out of $13.3 billion -- in 2017, according to Future Market Insights, which studies markets in over 150 countries. China accounts for about 40% of sales in Asia, Japan 21% and Korea approximately 18%.
"In East Asian culture, women prefer lighter skin tone because they believe 'yī bái zhē bǎi chǒu,' which means 'a white complexion is powerful enough to hide seven faults,' " said Shuting Hu, who researches new ingredients for whiteners, looking at the mechanism in skin cells at the molecular level. She is executive director and co-founder of SkinData Limited Hong Kong, a technology startup based on her research at the University of Hong Kong.
And, as Lodhi fo