Beyond Whiteness: Perspectives on the Rise of the Pan-Asian Beauty Ideal

  • Jeaney YipEmail author
  • Susan Ainsworth
  • Miles Tycho Hugh


Constructions of beauty are inherently racialized and also reflect the values of their particular contexts. In this chapter, we explore the racial basis and implications of the Pan-Asian beauty ideal. This ideal refers to a look that places particular emphasis on the face, rather than the body, and a distinctly ‘Asian’ white skin tone with characteristic blending of Asian and European facial features. Pursuit of this ideal and its promotion by fashion magazines, modeling agencies, and advertising have given rise to a significant market for beauty and cosmetic products and services that include skin whitening and cosmetic surgery. Reflecting shifting responses to Western influence as well as relationships among countries in the region and their relative economic and political power, the Pan-Asian ideal circulates in an economy of image production as a marker of global integration and cosmopolitanism. This is not to mean cosmopolitanism via association with the West, but rather via the strategic incorporation of European elements with a predominantly Asian look for the sake of appearing worldly. We contend that there are nuanced motivations and outcomes at play, intersecting with marketplace dynamics, cultural flows, and Asian modernity that scholars are yet to fully consider.


Beauty industry Asian identity Pan-Asian Cosmopolitan striving Asian modernity Skin whitening East Asian imperialism Facial surgery 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeaney Yip
    • 1
    Email author
  • Susan Ainsworth
    • 2
  • Miles Tycho Hugh
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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