Home International How Skin Whitening Injections Available in Korea Play Into Harmful Beauty Standards

How Skin Whitening Injections Available in Korea Play Into Harmful Beauty Standards

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There are a variety of negative health risks.

More often than not, K-Pop idols and Korean celebrities are often subjected to harsh expectations on how to look.  One beauty standard that has caused debate time and time again is the topic of skin tone and how “pale” skin is often favored, while “tanned” or “dark” skin is not.

This contestant on Single’s Inferno came under fire for “colorist” comments praising the “pale” skin of Shin Ji Yeon.  | Netflix/YouTube

Shin Ji Yeon | Netflix/YouTube

This “colorist” standard exists around the world and there are a variety of methods people use to try to change their skin tone. Recently, LOONA member JinSoul came under fire for comments she made where she said that she had searched out methods to combat her “tanning.” Some of the methods she mentioned include injections and pills that all offer the promise of a lighter and brighter skin tone.

Many of these skin whitening techniques contain Glutathione which is said to suppress the production of brown melanin, creating a whitening effect. Clinics advertise these effects alongside other health benefits including improved mood and kidney function.

Infographic about Skin Whitening Injections from Cinderella Clinic, one of the most popular plastic surgery clinics in Korea. | cindyhospital.com

The most popular version of this injection is called the Cinderella Injection or Beyoncé injection and contains glutathione.

A patient at a clinic in India receiving a similar “Cinderella Injection.” | Refinery29/YouTube

While Glutathione was once used for treating cancer patients, it has not been approved in most places for cosmetic usage.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) previously declared that injectable skin lightening products may be unsafe and urged Americans to avoid using these products after halting the sales of products that contained glutathione.

These products pose a potentially significant safety risk to consumers. You’re essentially injecting an unknown substance into your body—you don’t know what it contains or how it was made.

— In Kim, a pharmacist at the FDA.

The FDA in the Philippines also offers warnings for these injections, saying that side effects include “toxic effects on the liver, kidneys, and nervous system.” Researchers in the United States have also found evidence that supports the theory that the usage of antioxidants, more specifically glutathione, may actually speed up the development of tumors or cause more to occur in cancer patients.

An advertisement for a pill form of Glutathione and Vitamin C for skin “whitening”.

While pill forms of skin whitening techniques are not considered as dangerous as injections, they are still advised against as well.

In addition to the dangers of the injections, the results are not long-lasting and will require supplemental injections to maintain the new “lighter” skin. One shot can cost anywhere from 50 USD to 400 USD or more depending on the additions to the injection.

This combination of injections for “lightening” skin tone costs 120 USD per dose.

While beauty standards change constantly and the new “geongangmi” trend favors a more “tanned” healthy body, the desire for “pale” skin due to societal pressure can often lead people to make dangerous decisions for the sake of fitting in.

Check out some K-Pop idols that have gone against Korean beauty standards below:

Here Are 5 Korean Beauty Standards That K-Pop Idols Are Smashing



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