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Skin Color Matters - How to Become Fair, The Indian Obsession with Fairness Creams

Updated on August 18, 2013

Fairness Creams

It is an established fact that companies manufacturing / marketing fairness creams in India are registering a steady growth in their business turnover. The sales of some well known brands like Fair and Lovely of Hindustan Lever and White Perfect from L'Oréal are reportedly growing by 18% annually. The reputed research agency AC Nielsen has further projected that that the market for fairness cream in India will grow by up to 25 percent in the current year. That is a whopping market worth of around 430 million dollars!

I want to be FAIR!

If this phenomenal growth in the sales of fairness creams in India is any indication, then Indians – particularly Indian girls - are indeed obsessed with the color of their skin and many cosmetologists have begun to term this 'Snow White syndrome'. But men are not far behind in buying these fairness creams and lotions almost religiously. According to a recent study by Hindustan Lever, men in southern states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala are enthusiastic users of skin whitening creams. A report appeared on the Economic Times says that the sales of skin whitening creams are also high in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand states which have a bigger tribal population.

The before and after

Every girl wants to be fair like Aishwarya Rai Bachan
Every girl wants to be fair like Aishwarya Rai Bachan

This is a rather unfortunate development in a country where most people are genetically brown-skinned – but resent their skin color. Manufacturers of beauty and cosmetic products are merrily perpetuating the myth of white skin and further exploiting this trend to fill their coffers.

In view of this growing antipathy for dark skin, most teenage Indian girls (and men too!) have started developing an inferiority complex and many are heavily buying these fairness creams in the hope of lightening their skin color - fueled by a plethora of advertisements. This situation, to say the least is appalling.

Light Color Skin?

In a country where bulk of the people are predominantly either dark or brown skinned, there is an unhealthy obsession for fair skin and the question is how to dispel this obsession. The fairness cream manufacturing lobby that has vested interests may not let efforts in this direction to succeed.

People who wish to be models or interested in an acting career have this misconception that they will be rejected if their complexion is not fair. It should be the responsibility of leading fashion magazines to educate these aspirants that having a fair skin is not indispensable for becoming an actor or a model. Added to this, many matrimonial advertisements seeking brides / grooms demand people with fair skin. India being the country where arranged marriages are still the norm, the insistence on the bride being fair skinned still prevails.

An array of fairness creams or skin lightening creams
An array of fairness creams or skin lightening creams

A typical mens fairness cream commercial

The Truth about the Advertisements for Fairness Creams

It is an undeniable fact that most advertisements for fairness creams are not truthful. Most advertisements claim – and obviously unfairly - that the continued use of their fairness creams will change the skin color of the user with seven days or so. The gullible public fall a prey to these types of misleading advertisements, little realizing that such magic cannot and will not happen. There are instances of several persons persistently using these creams for several years with absolutely no improvement in their skin complexion

It is shocking to see the ads portraying the girls landing in good jobs, succeeding in acting careers and securing the love of handsome men – because of using their fairness creams. Most people scoff at the advertisements that make such tall and false claims for fairness creams – but buy them nevertheless. Or else, how to explain the number of brands of fairness creams steadily growing.

Another unfortunate ad that makes girls feel inferior

Of course this is not to argue against the use of sun protection lotions. Medical research has established that the harmful rays of the sun may cause dermatological problems including some deadly diseases like cancer. But frequent bleaching of skin, though may provide some immediate results, are found to be very harmful for the skin in the long run.

Skin color discrimination is a big social problem in India and it is believed that persons endowed with fair skin are preferred by the entertainment and other allied industries and a darker complexion is a disadvantage in the matrimonial market.

Skin color has been given undue importance in India for a long time. Some people argue may be in jest that because of the British rule in India, Indians developed this admiration for the white skin. There are also references in Indian literature glorifying the white skin and where the image of a fair flawless skin is construed as a key factor for a person to look beautiful.

What to do about it?

It is rather discouraging to know that when remarkable social transformation and economic progress is taking place in India that we should still be cultivating this adoration for the white skin and disdain for dark or brown skin.

The onus is on the advertisement professionals, models recruiting agencies, beauticians and people involved in similar professions to educate the masses and bring about a transformation in social outlook. But, only if they care. Dark skinned people should also introspect and become confident enough to accept their skin color and learn to cherish what nature has given. And use that millions of dollars for a better cause!

Comments

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    • profile image

      Debalina Aich Roy 3 years ago

      Its not bad if u want to get a skin. Everybody has the right to look beautiful. A fair complexion& healthy skin is a part of beauty

    • profile image

      shraddha 3 years ago

      beauty does not depend on fair color.a girl or boy who is not so fair, can be beautiful. but unfortunetly a black person suffers more than a fair person.

    • profile image

      alina 4 years ago

      I have very oily skin. I have started doing some work in kitchen because of that my face is becoming dark. I am using lemon juice on my face daily but it is not working. Also I have got some tan due to long distance travel during my exams. Please suggest some home remedies.

    • profile image

      annapurna 5 years ago

      NO MATTER WHETHER SKIN IS DARK OR WHITE.WHITE COMLEXION ATTRACTS PEOPLE FOR ONLY SOME TIME.BUT IF YOUR NATURE ,BEHAVIOUR,PERFORMANCE AND YOUR STYLES ARE GOOD I AM TELLING DEFINITELY PEOPLE WILL LIKES YOU THAN ANY OTHER PERSON.THEY WILL FOLLOW YOU AND OUR STYLES.IT'S a FACT,BELIEVE ME I HAVE REALIZED IN MY LIFE......SO GUYZ BEST OF LUCK

    • profile image

      denzil 5 years ago

      I want to be fair but in my days i have recieved many racial comments on my skin colour i am very dark

    • profile image

      Muthuvel Subbarayan 5 years ago

      Yes the ads are shameful and indian censor board is sleeping on them because of money involved. But this is a classic case of holier than thou attitude! Poor indians are just trying to loose tan that their harsh sun gave.

      1, Why is it ok for whites to want to Tan but is bad for indians to loose Tan.

      2, Why is India purported as an example when this fairness phenomenon is prevalent in all Asian countries like HK,China,Japan,Philiphines,indonesia,pakistan ?

      3, Not all indians are born Brown, a vast ammount of people are what you call mediterranean or biege who tan very fast. Tanned brown skin is perceived as working class so there is a stupid urge for people to groom themselves with anti-tan creams. Often these ads target less educated rural youth hence the crass messages.

      4, Why are white people claiming in the website that they apparently are so good that they do not mind getting a tan and appearing brown thus holier than the indian brownies who want to lighten their skin ? is appearing brown so bad that it needs a white mans benevolent approval ?

      5, Please do not give a racial undertone to a silly indian obsession with 'fair skin = social standing' it is not on the scale of ugly brazen 'whitening of brazil' which you Europeans did.

      This whole article is pretty high handed, elitist and bordering on narcissistic.

    • profile image

      Anupama 5 years ago

      Nice article. I think the British rule has very less to do with Indian obsession with fair skin. A typical darker Indian tries to look lighter (golden or sandy or bronze color) like a Punjabi or a kashmiri, akin to Brazilians/greeks NOT caucasians. If that British-oolonial skin color Myth were true, you would be seeing lots of fake blondes and red heads in India. I actually blame the bollywood industry which is dominated by ethnic groups that worship fair skin and hate dark skin. If you go to white countries, they seem to love tanned colors. I have never used fairness creams. I LOVE the outdoors. I tend to be bronze-tanned in summer and kind of golden/fair in winter and I simply couldn't care less about the white skinned obsession.

      I have cousins and friends who have drunk the fairness koolaid They get panic attack if they have to spend a lot of time in the sun. Every bollywood movie/fairness cream ad is like a nail in the coffin. Fairness obsession in INdia is like skinny-size obsession in America. Look at the number of weight loss ads you see in USA. In aj tak, they make social-awareness ads about dowry, disease, national unity etc. Why can't they promote a healthy attitude about skin color.

    • profile image

      diya 5 years ago

      i am having normal skin.whn i put makeup i look pretty.bt i want natural fairness.can curd+lemon increase fairness.can turmeric+lemon+milk increase fairness.plzzzzzzzzzzz tell me.suggest me some more tips tooo

    • profile image

      mahendra jain 5 years ago

      am jain ...and jains are always whight i am south indian jain am brown /black wat ever. but i hate my color when i see my fare friends ..i feel uncomfortable and befor going out side i apply cream but wont stay for long time . i know cant Chang my self but i want to know if bleach works bit ? what kind of bleach and where do i get it ? pls dont lough . jain.msj@gmail.com

    • profile image

      Beva 5 years ago

      Once you go white, your credit goes right.

    • profile image

      The win 5 years ago

      Great Tips

    • profile image

      smile 5 years ago

      I am a brown\black skinned Indian girl. Everybody says i am attractive nobody ever said i am ugly or unattractive.

    • profile image

      addie91 5 years ago

      I'm dark and i'm Indian...i have cried many times because of teasing and discrimination but later i learnt to accept myself and improve my inner beauty

    • profile image

      Anil Dhan 5 years ago

      Its disgusting the way people think being fair is the way. Damn be happy with whatever skin color you have..( hopefully you are not the hulk ..hehe ).. These companies should be banned for making such advertisements..

    • profile image

      mahi 5 years ago

      so beautiful

    • profile image

      sugandhi 5 years ago

      there is no use of any cream

    • profile image

      Manishka 5 years ago

      Although it is really wrong to judge a book by its cover,ppl do it all the time. And like it or not fairness covers faults a little better than dark skin.I am very dark myself but i have seen that when i photoshop my pics to make myself look fairer the pics look great. Its not fair that people are expected to be fair but it looks so damn good.Life is cruel

    • profile image

      Shakin 5 years ago

      I want to become medium fair please help me.i want some home item thing to make me fair

    • profile image

      basria 5 years ago

      yea so my mom uses it and honestly i can tell you her face changed al0t mashallah and your will see HUGE impact on your face , and im saying this cause im brown and tanned .... AFGHAN PARENTS HATE SEEING THEIR DAUGHTERS DARK THEY WANT THEM TO BE MILK WHITE -_-

    • profile image

      mythri 5 years ago

      yes even i am from india and i have brown skin. In india arranged marriages are very common and if a girl has dark colored skin, people ask for more dowry, this has happened to me also:( In india dark skinned girls are considered to be unattractive. Because of my color from my childhood i was always made feel inferior by my peers and people around me but now i love my colour and myself. People of india have to change their view for dark skinned people.

      A big thanks to SunSeven for bringing this topic up

    • profile image

      mvs 5 years ago

      I'm dark skin but I never wanted to be fair skinned which is why I find this article interesting. I get alot lighter in winter like everyone else but I only like my look in the summer.

    • Purple Perl profile image

      Purple Perl 5 years ago from Bangalore,India

      Yes, dark skinned people want to become fair & those with white skin want tans! We are never contented with what God has blessed us with, and society plays its part in playing with our minds. And ads too! There are also people with straight hair that want it curled or permed & those with natural curls or wavy hair that want straight hair.

      Short people want to appear taller & those with small or medium breasts desire larger ones.

      We need to thank God for all the positives that we already possess than wanting that which we desire.We think it makes us beautiful & alluring.But the real beauty lies within that reaches out to the eyes of the beholder.

      Thanks SunSeven for sharing your views.

    • profile image

      kate 5 years ago

      in the philippines most people think looking fair makes them look rich and hence respectable, educated. like i say a person can do whatever the hell he wants with his body, but when the majority wants to change their natural looks and look like the peopel who colonized and abused them (have been colonizing is perhaps the more correct way of putting it), that's collective insanity. it's sickening and unfortunate, and it definitely has to stop. the people here need to accept themselves and have more self-respect.

    • Clarac profile image

      Clarac 5 years ago

      Should I be ecstatic with pure white skin? Probably.

      However, rest assured that pure white skin NOT = good looks.

      Not to say I am fugly but I am occasionally critiqued by people on that my skin is TOO white. :/ WTF do they wish me to do? Dye my skin to be as black as them? Envious lot.

      Then again, I come from a girl school where girls are at the best at what they do: be a total b*tch.

      Guys, don't fall for them. Most girls are not good news. (I am not counted as girls, I prefer to be a soloist)

    • profile image

      karar shah 5 years ago

      its american policy to grow market in central asia

    • profile image

      B sharp 5 years ago

      I have seen some really beautiful dark women and some horrible white skinned females who look like death, my opinion is dark skin looks better.

    • profile image

      Farah 5 years ago

      I'm a dark skinned malaysian indian. Though i faced discrimination my whole life because of my skin colour, i've learned to love myself for being different from the others!

    • profile image

      UNKNOWN2 6 years ago

      Turmeric is one way to become lighter. As the person above said, there is a turmeric cream, which I think you probably have already heard, it is called, Vicco Turmeric. But the thing with Vicco and turmeric is that it only gets rid of hair on your skin. I may or may not be wrong. So.....yeah....

    • profile image

      Unknown 6 years ago

      It is really true. I dont like artificial skin case products. I'm also used lot of fairness products and failed. The main reason of them is "fairness at the time of consumption, and if we does not use it for about 5 days the real problem starting. There will be pimbles, rashes etc.". But once I was really wondered by using the traditional fairness equipment which was suggested by my grandma. It is TERMERIC. It is the appropriate one for the skin tone of indian especially for south indians. So that I'm following the traditional method now. Finally anybody suggest a natural way to increase fairness for south indians?

    • profile image

      Aashiika 6 years ago

      It is a shame that the grass is always greener on the other side! Caucasian Americans (particularly females) yearn for tan, dark skin. And here we are in India, tan and beautiful, yearning for fairer skin! From white to black every skin tone is beautiful, and we must all learn to LOVE and ACCEPT ourselves!

    • profile image

      mike 6 years ago

      Im a user of fair and lovely cream and other products, when I was in Dubai. I am looking forward to have some shops here in the philippines, here in Iloilo City some shops were I can purchase Fair and Lovely Products...Thank You. mikecare75@yahoo.com

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 6 years ago from United States

      Excellent article. You shine light on a topic that has caused pain and unacceptance for many. Thank you.

    • profile image

      kadambari bhosle 6 years ago

      well i never believed in becoming fair by using fairness creams nor do i believe now but it does not realy matter how dark what mwtters is your heart. if your heart is beautifull then you will find everything beautifull all around you including yourself. so be fair in your heart and not in your face. then you will be the awesome chick ever.

    • profile image

      indian 6 years ago

      i am an indian and i am dark-skinned.i dont believe in using any fairness creams.i am happy with what i am.its all a matter of mindset

    • profile image

      IndianDominic 6 years ago

      I am dark skin and I love it. I am dominican and most people confuse me for Indian because Indians are known for their beautiful pigmentation,their thick long black hair...etc, and that to me is the most beautiful thing. For that I say, that when people confuse me for Indian I smile and take it as a compliment.

    • profile image

      Vest 6 years ago

      A Crow Is No Whiter for being washed.

      Stand proud for your parentage.

    • profile image

      deepu 6 years ago

      am from INDIA ,where majority of the people looks dark.teenage gals here use lots of creams to become fair which is considered attractive here .i dont believe fair people looks good

    • profile image

      sandra tapper 7 years ago

      It is all about the money. Market getting tans to the white people and advertise to the black people to use skin whitening products. It is always about the money.

    • profile image

      donna84 7 years ago

      This is a great article. Im a teenage girl whose parents are from SriLanka but I live in the UK. Over there girls with lighter skin are deemed "more attractive" than people with darker skin. Im so glad my parents never had that mindset but unfortunately a lot of girls my age grow up being told they need to use skin lightening creams or are looked down upon if they are darker. Also a lot of people think fairer skin is better because it means you are from a higher caste. It doesnt make sense does it. Actors and actresses who endorse these products should be ashamed of encouraging it. In TV shows, they use bright lights to make everyone's skin fairer. This is unrealistic and something has to change. Starting with the media.

    • angel115707 profile image

      Angel Ward 7 years ago from Galveston, TX

      ummmm...I am very fair, and most people who are want tans? and darker people want to be fair? Now wonder some darker people treat fair skinned girls bad...I cannot imagine wanting something you are not. I hope that all of you who want to be lighter can learn to love yourself for who you are, so that you don't mistreat the girls you covet. And fair girls who tan every day.... can be pretty cruel too. No body should desire what is not yours, be happy with who you are, and quit trying to be something your not!!

      I am not saying this to be harsh, you are all beautiful just the way you are, comparing yourself to famous people, who are the fakest of them all...is silly, there are pro's and con's too all skin tones, pale skin shows flaws easier, its why many girls tan, its not as luxurious s it seems. Just like women with naturally beautiful lips and breasts are now not even noticed because of all the fake blown up lips and breasts.... I want you to look in the mirror and see beauty...

      here is a song..I need ot remind myself I am ok, even though I am not a 6 foot tall tan, 90 pound blonde like all the American boys want here.....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsptGe50J40

    • profile image

      maria 7 years ago

      Soooo true. Every word. The Indian subcontient has an obsession with light skin where majority of them dark. Especially for young girls, where those are who are lighter are automatically deemed prettier and those who are darker are not. Where arrange marriages still exist, this has also posted a problem with getting men's attention or more importantly the attention of the man's mother who wants a "gori" girl (gori meaning fair skinned girl). It has become a sterotypical behavior that every man wants a gori (light skinned) and lambi (tall) girl as their bride.

      Not only that, even TV exploits this by pasting white crap on their female actresses. I've noticed in many shows where they look the female actresses seem much much lighter than they are in real life. I'm not gonna take an example but this actress in this one show i watch in real life is 2 shades darker than me but in the show is 3 shades lighter than me. Her on-screen sister is naturally lighter so even the male actors in that show talk about her in a complimenting way "woh kitnee gori hai" aka "she's sooo much lighter"

      This is very disturbing and needs to change.

    • profile image

      Dark Indian 7 years ago

      Dark skin is indeed a problem in India. I am a dark skinned Indian and I faced loads of comments during my school days on my dark skin. This eventually reduced my self esteem very low and I had ended up in few years of depression. Thank God I came out of it. but still this is a big issue that no one is addressing in India.

    • profile image

      obagi reviews 7 years ago

      Skin lightening/brightening is very popular in my country as well. (Northern Asia) My concern is some of those ingredients are quite dangerous if you use excessively and I hope the most users are educated about the ingredients before they purchase those products.

    • profile image

      drmasood45@yahoo.co.in 7 years ago

      really it is great concept for dark skin girls particularly in india this is every increasing demand for light skin & fair ness cream you talked about only organised sector where as un organised market is very vast lot of people made tses creams by mixing some korean & chinese creams with fair & lovely & some medicines like betamethasones

    • profile image

      Sanrow 7 years ago

      It is natural.Fair complexion attracts.Fairness covers ugliness to some extent.Though fair complexion and beauty are different things people are generally attracted by fair complexion.

    • profile image

      Undecided 7 years ago

      Human being!! They always wanted to be outstanding than others! To be seen, noticed whatsoever...in asia the whiter the better because the rest can be outshine ironically in Western the are chasing to look bit darker! Get it! People is a just a seed of jealousy - if genetically black, brown o white lets embrace, it wont change! I notice lighter skin in Asia may get advantage and in extreme case better employment - just because they are fairer, what is happening!, God gracious they are not angels - to be fair is easy never go out from your house, use proper product and eat vitamin - for how long? you decide? frankly it's unnecessary and ungly - rejoice your life -

    • profile image

      sandra 7 years ago

      This is true in Trinidad, I am Indian , with naturally light skin, my best friends are are of african decendents with dark skin, and my in-laws are Americans with white, skin, whats the big deal, we all are people loving each other. come on world , wake up and smell the coffee. spend time thanking god for a blessed day, and for life to see another day.

    • profile image

      Ashley 7 years ago

      This isn't exactly exclusive to India. This mentality is rampart all across Asia. Still, I don't agree that this is a bad thing. A long time ago, there was a commercial ad about a shampoo with a girl trying for a job interview. While it may be misleading that she got the job interview because of the shampoo. But that wasn't the message. The message was the shampoo gave the girl confidence to win the job interview. And it's pretty much the same in skin whitening. It's not any different from any beauty product. And let's face it beauty products do uplifts the self-esteem and boosts confidence. So, I don't think it's a bad thing but overdoing it (like Michael Jackson) is.

    • Harlan Colt profile image

      Harlan Colt 7 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

      I find it odd that so many white/fair-skinned people spend tons of money flocking to the tanning spa so they can darken their skin. I have always wanted a darker complexion myself, but not bad enough to do anything about it, its not that important to me. Neither is vanity. I really don't care much about looks. Sure, looks are nice, but I have found very outwardly beautiful people can be very ugly inside, and homely people outwardly, can be very beautiful on the inside. I prefer the inward beauty over the outward.

      A person's character and magnatism can be very attractive regardless of looks.

      That said, I have observed outward beauty from all races and colors. Skin color/tone has nothing to do with it. I hope those in India who are persuaded by this situation learn soon that they are beatiful just the way God made them.

      Good hub,

      -Harlan

    • mulberry1 profile image

      mulberry1 7 years ago

      This is unfortunate. People everywhere seem to be afflicted with the same problem though. Light people want to be darker, dark people want to be lighter. People want different eyes, different hair, different lips, and so forth. This is fueled by fashion, entertainment, the media and so forth. It's expensive, dangerous, damaging to our mental health, and negative overall. Dove is one of the few companies I've noticed lately that seems to grasp how negative all of this can be.

    • theherbivorehippi profile image

      theherbivorehippi 7 years ago from Holly, MI

      Very interesting! I've never heard of such products. Vanity is the root of so many problems. Great hub!

    • editorsupremo profile image

      editorsupremo 7 years ago from London, England

      Fantastic hub Sunseven. The desire to be fair skinned is also prevalent in the Caribbean, Africa, the US and UK. I think it is really sad that the media is perpetuating as a fact that the lighter your skin color the more you will be accepted by society. What kind of message is this sending to our young girls and boys? We are basically telling them that there dark skin is not acceptable and in the extreme it is ugly! Fortunately, I have parents who have instilled in me that black is beautiful and I'm proud of my chocolate brown skin color!

    • calicoaster profile image

      calicoaster 7 years ago

      Excellent hub sunseven! People in India are really quite biased to fair skin, which needs to be changed.

    • gramon1 profile image

      Guillermo Ramon 7 years ago from Miami

      I am latino, so my skin is white to dark people and dark to light people. I guess that is a good place to be. I really can not understand how any skin can be better than other. Beauty is a package. If your skin is one color, you will look great in specific colors that contrast with it. I tend to look better in browns, reds, white, and black. Intense colors bring up the contrast of my skin tones. Very white people tend to look great in very intense bright accents, over more muted tones. After coming from 2 Hindi weddings in London, I can tell you that most of the expensive, dressy saries come in colors that go great with dark skin. I had a kind of purpure sarie made for my wife. She is blond, but looked great too. It is all a matter of taking advantage of what God gave you!

    • Peter Dickinson profile image

      Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

      I was born white. I prefer to be tanned. I really have never been bothered about other peoples skin colours. That the skin is healthy is what really matters. The darkest black is beautiful, so is every other colour up to the purest white. People should be content with what nature has given them. An interesting article. Thank you.

    • Jonesie201 profile image

      Jonesie201 7 years ago from London, England

      I like to see brown skin, I think it looks lovely, especially on a warm summer day when the light is soft and gentle. OK, maybe I am a little jealous because I have a problem with sunshine and rarely go out in it and I never sit in the sun so I am always a pasty white!

    • profile image

      Archit 7 years ago

      I felt the same way some days ago, though did not know about the ineffectiveness of these creams, but even if they do change the colour, they should not be promoted by common people.

      It feels great that some other people too realise the fact.

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 7 years ago

      So true, SunSeven :-)

      This is true in the Philippines as well.

      I agree with you on spending on more important things.

      Thank you for this hub.