What are the Cambodian Beauty Standards? (2024)

beautiful Cambodian woman smiling and wearing white top

We want to assume that everyone has their beauty standard, yet cultural standards define what most people find appealing. 

What is considered beautiful shifts with the times and across cultures. With people of similar backgrounds appreciating the same qualities in themselves and those around them, and people of different backgrounds gravitating towards those who are different in terms of their appearance, whether in terms of their body type, skin tone, clothing taste, or even personality. 

That the cambodian beauty standards so opposed to the British is hardly surprising.

What is Beauty Standard?

Standards of beauty, which can be regarded as a societal expectation, are conceptualised differently among countries. 

Antonio Fuente del Campo, the worldwide editor of the Aesthetic Surgery Journal in Brazil, found that beauty standards are different in every country because they are established by local custom. 

The aesthetic standards of today’s culture have largely been shaped by the media, including social media, publications, movies, and commercials. 

People who are more susceptible to the media’s persuasive power are more inclined to alter who they are to fit in. 

Why do we even bother with beauty standards if they’re so arbitrary?

Jean Liebault, a famous French physician who wrote about aesthetics and health in the 16th century, noted that status, economics, and politics are among the primary variables in the development of beauty norms. 

Evidence from Cambodia suggests that ancient Khmers placed less importance on outward displays of wealth and status. 

Daughters in Cambodia were traditionally expected to “Jol Mlob” or remain at home for a set period to learn the feminine arts, domestic chores, and how to maintain their beauty. 

Still, this practice has fallen out of favour. 

Due to the increased use of cosmetic and skin care products, beauty has become much more essential to women and men. 

Some people have plastic surgery to boost their self-esteem and suit their needs. 

There is a widespread belief that those who come from wealthy or socially prominent backgrounds tend to have attractive children.  

In Cambodia, what constitutes a beautiful person?

How One Looks Physically

Women’s fashion in Cambodia increasingly favours slender figures. It is also considered beautiful to have hands that curve back, like those of ancient Khmer dancers. 

Young children start training early by bending and stretching their fingers every day. Long fingernails, especially on men, have long been a symbol of affluence. 

Those who live on the land (and are typically relatively poor) are forced to clip their fingernails for practical reasons. 

Younger Cambodian men are less likely to sport the traditional style of long fingernails or a single long nail on each little finger.

Tone of Skin

White people have traditionally been accorded higher social prestige and influence in many parts of Asia, including Cambodia. 

People with darker cambodian skin tone are stereotyped as poorer and lower in social standing since they are assumed to have earned their darker skin tone via manual labour in the sun, such as that of farmers or labourers. 

Many modern-day Cambodians still hold to this view.  

However, the most noticeable distinction is that fair complexion is highly valued in Cambodia, particularly among women. 

Despite temperatures reaching 40 degrees, many young ladies will go to great lengths to avoid sunburn by covering up with hats, scarves, and gloves. 

Shower creams and moisturisers that don’t include bleaching agents are becoming increasingly hard to come by in stores due to the high demand for whitening products. 

The use of these items is highly discouraged. Corticosteroids, highly poisonous mercury salts, and carcinogenic compounds like hydroquinone have all been found in lotions. 

Each year, several women lose their lives due to utilising these products, most commonly due to excessive use in the pursuit of a ‘beautiful’ appearance.

What Do Modern Beauty Standards Entail?

Attractive cambodian facial features, including smooth skin, a sharp nose, an oval or V-shaped face, two layers of eyelashes, white teeth, and long, silky, straight hair, are essential for modern women. 

Men that meet cambodian beauty standards tend to be tall, muscular, have a squared-off, well-defined face, and have white or lighter skin. In contrast to women’s standards, however, men tend not to place a premium on skin tone. 

What kinds of damage do conventional ideas of beauty cause?

According to a study from the United States National Centre for Biotechnology Information, lipsticks, hair dyes, and makeup containing high amounts of iron, zinc, cadmium, and other chemical substances can cause allergic reactions and health issues if not standardised. 

In 2015, researchers from the International University and the Health Science University in Cambodia found that skin whitening goods having 35,000 times more mercury than the level set by ASEAN can have serious consequences for people’s health. 

Mercury is often included in skin care products like body lotion and whitening creams to lighten skin tone. 

Mercury-based chemical chemicals are among the top ten most harmful chemical substances used in public healthcare, according to data from the World Health Organisation. 

They can cause reactions in the brain, intestines, lungs, kidneys, skin, and eye. Mercury is harmful to developing babies and should be avoided by pregnant women at all costs.  

As a result of this demand, businesses in the cosmetics industry, notably those selling whitening goods like body lotions and pills that make your skin light within a week, have exploded across Cambodia’s market, particularly on online platforms. 

In 2018, 60 tonnes of counterfeit cosmetics were destroyed by a committee of the Interior Ministry against fake items after being seized from three places in Phnom Penh and Kandal. This included hair dyes, shampoos, conditioners, face powder, lipsticks,  body lotions, hair sprays, and perfumes.

Despite its superficial nature, the pursuit of beauty has had devastating effects on people’s psyches. 

A British Psychological Society study found that worrying about maintaining one’s quality of life leads people to engage in unhealthy behaviours, including poor dietary choices.

Discrimination in the home, the business, and the community are all triggered by unrealistic beauty standards. 


The worldwide emphasis on cambodian beauty standards negatively affects people’s psychological and physiological well-being, especially women. Our dissatisfaction with our appearance grows as we become increasingly preoccupied with ways to enhance it. 

We must reevaluate our ideas of what constitutes beauty because what’s “in” is merely a fad, not a reliable barometer of worth.

Read more : Top 10 Cultural Beauty Standards That You Must Know! (2023)

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