The light touch

Updated: 2011-08-12 11:05

By Alexandra Leyton Espinoza (China Daily European Weekly)

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The light touch
Most of Phillip Wenzel Kyhl's sun-tanning customers are Chinese. Alexandra Leyton Espinoza / for China Daily 

Danish ideas man adding new color to urban Chinese office workers

Beauty for most Chinese women implies milk-white skin, says Phillip Wenzel Kyhl. So his sun tanning studio was a business originally aimed for the Westerners living in Beijing. A year after opening Sunkissed, and reflecting the change in China, most of his clients now are Chinese.

"I believe that the growing middle class in China will soon change their attitude to dark skin and realize you look healthier with a tan," Kyhl says.

The Dane studied linguistics at the University of Aarhus, so when he first arrived in China in 2005 the plan was to study Chinese. Dalian was his first stop because he considered learning Mandarin would be easier in a smaller city compared with a cosmopolitan giant like Beijing.

"When I first came to China through the Trans-Siberian railway we were about to cross the border between Mongolia and China and everyone had to get off for a train inspection. They were playing Chinese songs and what I believe was Communist propaganda through big megaphones. I found it surreal but also exciting," he says.

"When I first got here, I didn't have a plan. I just knew I wasn't going back to Denmark. I did everything possible to finish my studies from China."

The idea of starting a sun tanning studio came from nowhere.

"I soon realized that there is a market for everything in China, and when I did market research on sun tanning studios, my girlfriend and I realized there was real opportunity in Beijing."

Many Chinese associate darker skin with menial labor because migrant workers and farmers are exposed to the sun all day. Lighter-skinned people, on the other hand, carry the sign of affluence, and Chinese department store shelves are loaded with lotions and creams designed to whiten the skin.

This was one of several reasons why he founded his tanning studio in a more laowai, or foreigners Beijing area, which was the up-and-coming Wudaoying Hutong.

It seemed like a perfect fit for his new business.

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