The Goras left India 65 years ago, but left behind their legacy ‘Snow White Syndrome’ that still haunts us, teases us and like a dark cloud hovers over our head even in this age of economic advancement! Having ruled by Brits for a long, long time, we’ve always associated white skin with supremacy and power, even though times have changed, few thoughts like these, however atrocious they maybe, remain just the same.
Our obsession with fair skin has opened floodgates of opportunities for fairness cream manufacturers. Fair & Lovely, a product of Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) started it all in the year 1975, selling ‘hope in a tube’ to us. A Rs. 1,000 crore brand, that little tube is the largest selling skin lightening cream in the world and is sold in 38 countries. Today, there are innumerable companies competing against each other promising to the public ‘skin clarity, protection from sunrays, intense moisturizing, removal of dark spots, even claims like “fairness in four weeks”. Women’s fairness cream market in India is estimated at Rs. 1800 crore (and bleaches make up about Rs. 200 crore), with HUL dominating the pack with 70% share, followed by CavinKare at 10% and Garnier at around 7%!
Advertisement of fairness creams often associates fair skin with success and happiness and portrays ugly duckling turning into a beautiful swan who then bags a good job, good guy and happiness for her entire life. Feeding to our imagination and hope, and tickling the right chord on an emotional level, these celluloid images make us believe that fairness cream is a magic wand that makes the unfair, fair, and sets things right! Furthermore, with our favorite celebrities like Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone and Sonam Kapoor supporting the claims, we are only humans to ‘want to want’ one of those products or start believing in them. Men too wanted those fairness creams, and many had been secretly using Fair & Lovely for a long time. But the year 2008 changed it all…it finally gave them their own fairness cream and with Shah Rukh Khan backing the product, Fair and Handsome started selling like hot cakes, and its annual sales quadrupled to 1 billion rupees! The unprecedented success in this new category prompted others to follow suit, making men’s fairness cream market worth a whopping Rs. 800 crore.
With the desire of becoming ‘fairest of them all’, we are but totally ignoring the dark side of these white creams. These skin lightening creams does more harm than good, because even after repeated applications, you can go lighter by only up to 20%! So eventually what they leave behind are detrimental side affects like thinning of the skin, growth of acne, photosensitivity to sun, and increase chance of skin cancer. Your natural color is something that you are born with, nothing can take that away from you, not even the world’s most expensive or largest selling fairness cream!
Fairness is not a yardstick to measure beauty, neither white beauty is the highest form or the only form of beauty known to mankind. While the West goes ga-ga over darker skin, even going to unbelievable lengths like tanning in the skin for hours just to become a tad darker, but we in India, still, worship white color. We can’t fight against such prejudices of the majority or of the society, and neither we can instantly change the mindset of the people, or ban those nasty advertisements, but we just cannot let it strip us of our internal beauty and decide who we are on the basis of our skin color! We certainly owe this to ourselves.
Do you think this white frenzy is just a fad that’ll fade away with time?
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@ Mala – Some people are so uncomfortable in their skin and I wonder how suffocating it must be for them…and these nasty ads on TV must be ripping them off their confidence and worthiness! Wish the white frenzy was just a fad, and would go away with time.
Few things will not change, at least soon enough and issues related to fairness and skin will surely remain so in the society, it’s not fair, but can’t help but wonder about this craze.
True, fair is sometimes not lovely at all, but the craze “to become white” is still there among the mindset of both men and women. We, skin practitioners and skin clinics take advantage of it though. We at ‘K’ have everything… fairness cleanser, fairness day cream, fairness night cream, skin lightening peels and aqua fairness.phew!!!! Such a dedicated lot are we to make people look fair. But then most of the time, the effort and money goes down the drain. Be beautiful in your own skin colour, thats all i say!!
@ Roh – Surprisingly men’s market is growing steadily, more than women’s! I was reading somewhere that these days even kids have pressure from parents to start using these fairness creams, and some even start taking their kids as young as 3 yrs old to the skin doctors….they believe, early the treatment the better it is.