Document Type

Social Sciences



Submission Date

July 2017


In the Philippines and other developing countries, the skin whitening industry is prolific and expanding among native populations. However, this desire for white skin has dire health repercussions, both physical and psychological. Many researchers in the field of Filipino-American psychology attribute this desire for whiter skin to the American colonial rule of the Philippines, which began in 1898 and lasted for nearly fifty years. Historians often characterize the American occupation as cruel and demeaning, leading to colonial mentality that has continued into the post-colonial era. As a result, in order to ameliorate this dilemma, one must explore how the internalized oppression and psychological state of the Filipino people caused by America’s previous colonial rule of the Philippines contributes to the success of the Filipino skin whitening industry. To research this question, historical journal articles that contextualize the American treatment of the Filipino people are utilized, in order to explore possible motives for occupying the Philippines. Articles in the field of Filipino-American psychology are also studied, thus exploring the psychological health of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in relation to colonial rule. Articles in the field of history and sociology show the relationship between colonialism and skin whitening, both in the Philippines and in other countries. To explore other possible contributing factors, in the field of psychology and sociology are utilized. The success of the Filipino Skin Whitening Industry is greatly attributed to the damaged psychological state of the native people brought on by American colonial rule. This can be attributed to the mistreatment of the native population, and the subsequent development of internalized oppression, colonial mentality, and an ingrained preference for white skin. However, contemporary factors may also contribute to the industry’s success, such as the phenomenon of “cosmopolitan whiteness,” and Filipino-Americans’ tendency to conform to popular culture. Although colonialism plays a significant role in the success of the skin whitening industry, it is possible that many other factors come into play. As a result, it is imperative to explore colonial mentality more thoroughly, as well as its mental health implications. In addition, it would be valuable to explore the ways in which internalized oppression can be combated, thus decreasing the need for the skin whitening industry.


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