Indian Fair Skin Obsession & Advertising


Indian obsession with fair skin is so depressing. I think there have been many many talks on the fair and lovely ads, yet earlier when we had just one product – Fair and Lovely, that banked on the 7 day miracle of making you fair; today we have many more. Almost all ads of beauty products for women are aimed at making a woman fair. Vaseline Intensive care, L’Oreal, Ponds, Garnier, Neutrogena, you name it – all of them just want to make you fair. Skin whitening creams are the rage of the day. Today even the fashion industry and bollywood are accused of being obsessed with fair skin. Ofcourse the economics of it also justifies their stand as foreign models and actresses are cheaper but still it is kind of sad to note that in a country of 1 billion, we have a leading actress likr Katrina Kaif, who is a foreigner and not of Indian origin.

If one looks into economics, guess the call is justified. Who wouldn’t like to go for cheaper labour? It is wrong to even justify indigenous talent at such a time. The disturbing trend however is the stress on ‘fairness’. Every face peering at you from a glossy magazine or every face looking at you in TV is a foreign face or a face made so white that it can easily go with the tagline from a popular Rin ad of yesteryear – ‘Safedi ki chamkar’! Teenage is a tender age, not everyone is sensible enough to understand that beauty doesn’t matter always. Although we have moved to a more materialistic society, skin fairness is not justifiable in a tropical country like India where skin tones are less than fair. Growing up, teenagers have the need to feel pretty and gorgeous, and having just fair models or messages that fairness is only thing that matters is definitely not acceptable. An important question is the effect of skin lightening creams on the skin. They are the in-thing today and claim to be safe but do we really know how they work or how they can affect our skin? How can something that lightens your natural skin colour be safe for daily use? Most importantly why are you ashamed of your natural skin colour?

A major obsession with fair skin reflects in the way people choose marriage partners in India. Almost every guy wants a fair girl, no matter how dark or ugly he himself is. A little change has come in the way the males are thinking in India today. They also want to be fair, so we also have products like Fair and Handsome for males but still on all things matrimony the fairness of the girl is always a thing to lookout for. It’s not rare, that between two sisters – one fair and one dark, the fairer one is considered to be everyone’s favourite and finds prospective marriage proposals easily and in greater number than the darker sister. No one should have to feel inferior or unwanted on the basis of their skin colour. The ‘want’ to be fair should not even be there. People should aspire to be happy, good, intelligent, creative or smart but not be different skin toned!

A burning question is, doesn’t media’s social responsibility come here. How long will they go on selling such products on a racist premise? Why isn’t this regulated? Mostly why aren’t we allowed to be proud of our indigenous skin tones and have to become fair and lovely?

It is true that the art of selling involves bluff or rather presenting the positives in a highly exaggerated manner and hiding the negatives. A lot of sales people feel cut-throat competition justifies lying and selling. Still ethics apply to all professions. It was okay when we had just one fair and lovely. We knew its damaging repercussions but we also laughed at it. Now, we have this whole bunch of ads screaming at us that use this product and get fair in 7 days. Can’t advertisers recognize their folly? Instead of recognizing the hazards of such advertising, they are just following the herd and showcasing products under the same premise. It’s true, that companies have recognized India as a destination for all skin whitening related products. Being businesses they feel more for their profit than for the psychological and physical implications of such products. Surely, advertisers can put a stop to this. They can use more ethical means of advertising these products. It maybe a challenge but surely advertisers love coming up with creative ways to fight challenges. 

I await that one ad that sells skin whitening cream without sending the message that it’s wrong to be dark-skinned. I also await that one change in advertising that sends a message to this country that – You should be proud of your skin tone, no matter what it is! It’s high time for this change to come in advertising.


  1. We (a lot of very few people) believe in the Inner beauty rather than External beauty/ facial beauty.

    If we talk about people, mass and media.. there is no meaning of Inner beauty, there is a feeling of racial discrimination also. If we do not have fair skin, we are treated as "Second Class" people.

    Fair skin is recognized as standard parameter of Beauty, so that every common person is obsessed about it at Advertising is used to promote it, which is cashed by Skin treatment companies.

  2. True, its quite unfortunate. I feel its time advertisers brought about a change in this.

  3. Advertisers are selling what people want... The same name brands, same products in US won't make such claims..They'll get sued..

    In India people are obsessed with skin color, not only uneducated or old people but young ones too.. I guess we need one voice of reason in every family to fight such biases...

  4. True! I feel surprised that most Indians have a inferiority complex for everything Indian and need a validation from West to actually follow it. For e.g., Yoga and Ayurveda came of age only once people like Madonna started advocating it. Do we now need a popular Icon to endorse Indian skin colour to stop this foolhardy?

  5. I had read one amazing article by a Indian mom in one of the parenting magazine issue.
    She talked about how birth of her child made her beautiful... All her life she was taunted because of her skin color, there were many instances..
    but when her child was born, nurse said she is beautiful, just like you!

    It was very moving..

  6. Personal front, i have to say well crafted post, had all the necessary inputs and data. Mainly advertising companies need to be blame for this racial discrimination intentionally / unintentionally. Fair business policies and side effects of the products should be mentioned. Western culture is ruing the basic concept of people's point of view in terms of skin tone.


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