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Indonesia: Searching for a face like Michael Jackson

In search of whiter skin at the Michael Jackson Whitening House in Indonesia.

Some of the more abrasive treatments can leave the customer’s skin feeling very sensitive, she said. Many clients — particularly wealthy young women — are prone to getting obsessed with the goal of brightening their skin and will come in day after day for more treatments, she said.

“It happens all the time. We’re always polite to them, but sometimes we have to just get out a type of cream that really doesn’t do anything,” Mustika-Wati said. “That way, at least they’re getting something and they feel satisfied.”

Initial treatment at the Michael Jackson Whitening House is just the start of a long road, Mustika-Wati said. To truly achieve the lightest skin possible, her clients have to submit to a rigorous regime of lotions, potions and continued skin “maintenance,” meaning regular trips to her salon.

In addition to morning, afternoon and evening lotions that the Whitening House sells in tiny pink pots, clients must also regularly apply sun block to keep out dreaded ultraviolet rays, she said.
Failure to adhere to this regime could result in the catastrophic, she said: Sensitive, treated skin could become even darker than before the treatment began.

At the nearby Ambarrukmo Plaza mall, several 20-somethings and teenagers enjoying a snack at the food court shrugged at the mention of skin-whitening treatments.

“I’ve never tried it, but I think it’s probably cool,” said Bayu Dhika Atmanindra, 26. “No one’s ever complained about my skin, so I haven’t felt the need to do it.”

Asked if he had heard of the Michael Jackson Whitening House, Dhika Atmanindra and his two friends looked at each other and shrieked with laughter.

“What? You’re serious?" he asked in disbelief. "That’s seriously what it’s called?”