Most Hong Kong men would find their partners more attractive if they had fairer skin, a survey examining attitudes to skin-whitening products in Asia has found.
The Asia Market Intelligence (AMI) report showed 68 per cent of Hong Kong men thought their partners would be more attractive with lighter complexions. By contrast, only 45 per cent of women wanted their men whiter.
AMI questioned 2,350 people in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Korea and Malaysia.
Malaysian men were most likely to want their partners to have light skin (74 per cent), while the Taiwanese were not as concerned (55).
Women were asked to rate 10 female celebrities according to what look they aspired to and what kind of skin they wanted. Men were asked what they wanted their partners to look like.
Both sexes came up with the same top three choices but ranked them differently.
Women preferred actress Carina Lau (20 per cent), followed by actress and singer Gigi Leung (17), and actress Michelle Reis (16).
Men ranked Gigi Leung (22 per cent) as their first choice, second was Carina Lau (16) and third Michelle Reis (14).
The study also shows only 28 per cent of SAR women were deterred from using skin-whitening products by a health scare in January when almost 300 women were tested for mercury poisoning attributed to Youdi Eliminating Freckle Cream.
Up to 10 other brands sold locally were also thought to contain dangerously high levels of mercury, which can damage the nervous system, cause kidney failure, psychiatric problems and cerebral palsy in unborn children.
Koreans were more likely to take notice of their health, with 57 per cent saying they were concerned about possible mercury poisoning, followed by 37 per cent of Taiwanese.
AMI executive director Miranda Cheung Yuk-yin said skin-whitening products enjoyed a high market penetration rate in Hong Kong, with 38 per cent of women using the creams.
'Most people think that if you are white it helps to cover wrinkles or ageing skin,' Ms Cheung said. 'There is also a Chinese saying that whiteness can cover any three things which are ugly.'
The products were especially popular among the 25 to 34 age range, with 48 per cent using them regularly. The figures were similar in Malaysia and Taiwan, where 33 per cent buy the creams, compared with only 25 per cent of Koreans.
Indonesians are the biggest users at 44 per cent, with 60 per cent of those aged 15 to 24 applying skin-whiteners. Hong Kongers tend to prefer supermarket brands such as Olay, Neutrogena and Ponds.