Jade white skin with naturally rosy cheeks is an ideal for many women. Asian women are especially keen on white skin -- jade white is a classic description of beautiful skin. They spend vast sums on commercial whiteners to reduce skin pigmentation.
Rather than using chemicals and cosmetics, traditional Chinese medicine suggests sustained dietary therapy and acupressure as a way of life. There's an old Chinese saying: "White skin can help conceal 100 other defects in your appearance." Having perfectly white skin has always been an essential of Chinese beauty, though some trendy people like a healthy tan.
According to TCM, white skin with pink cheeks (peaches and cream) is a sign of good health, healthy energy flow and blood circulation. Some healthy people, of course, are born with dark skin and healthy people do tan.
Proper flow of energy and blood not only supports organs but also nourishes the muscles and skin. Insufficient or blocked internal energy can directly cause dark skin.
Many Chinese people offer congratulations on good health when they first see someone, saying qi se hao, ("energy color good"), meaning your complexion is good, you have good color.
TCM says you can improve your color by eating certain herbs and foods and applying acupressure. This will increase blood circulation and energy. Poor color resulting from liver disease, diabetes, wasting and malnutrition requires a doctor's care.
A popular prescription for white skin is san bai tang (three white soup) made from bai shao (white peony root), bai shu (white atractylodes), bai fu ling (white tuckahoe) and liquorice. This is recommended in "Yi Yao Ru Men" ("Introduction to Medicine") by Li Chan in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
It was originally used to counteract weakness and irritation due to typhoid, but people found that it also whitened and nourished skin.
By reinforcing energy and blood, san bai tang can help relieve rough, dark skin and patches of pigmentation on the face.
Some foods, especially vegetables, can also promote white skin. As recorded in "Ben Cao Gang Mu" ("Materia Medica Outline"), peas can help lighten skin and give it luster. Other whiteners: gou qi (wolf berries), pearl barley, hawthorn, lily root, soybean milk, tomatoes, green peppers, asparagus, cucumber, white turnips, white guard, white fungus, walnuts and almonds. These should be eaten regularly as part of the diet.
Acupressure, too, can help improve energy flow, especially after bathing when the skin is flushed, and capillaries have brought blood to the surface. This needs to become part of your daily routine.
(Shanghai Daily May 13, 2008)