Hong Kong women's obsession with lily-white skin has hit a new high, with almost half having used skin-whitening cosmetics, according to a regional survey released yesterday. Forty-five per cent of Hong Kong women have used whitening products, second only to Philippine women (50 per cent), but ahead of their counterparts in Malaysia (41 per cent), Taiwan (37 per cent) and South Korea (28 per cent). A similar survey two years ago found 38 per cent of Hong Kong women used such products. The latest transnational survey by market research firm Synovate polled about 500 women in each of the five places. Of those who use the products, 61 per cent said they did so to look younger, about half were trying to cover wrinkles and dark spots, and 43 per cent used the products because they thought men preferred a fair complexion. 'It looks like skin-whitening is a strengthening trend in Asia,' said Synovate's associate director in Hong Kong, Daisy Sam. 'Many people with Asian complexions want to be fairer, and many people with fair complexions go to a great deal of trouble to tan their skin darker.' While the survey may upset some celebrities, it will please others. Without being asked by pollsters, 19 per cent of respondents in Hong Kong and 21 per cent in Taiwan cited actress Carina Lau Ka-ling as having the most desired skin colour. In Hong Kong, Lau was followed by singer and fellow actress Gigi Leung Wing-kei (9 per cent), model Michelle Reis, and actress Karina Lam (both 8 per cent). Across the Taiwan Strait, local actress Shao Chiang came in second as having the most admired skin (17 per cent), ahead of Hong Kong actresses Maggie Cheung Man-yuk and Rosamund Kwan, who both came third (7 per cent).