Bursting India’s myths about skin color

by Craig Janis

A few months back IndusLatin spotlighted the expansive use of skin whitening creams in India and Latin America. Recently the issue has been back in the news in India. Vogue magazine’s India edition dedicated its May cover story to the issue, and declared that it is time “to say we love, and always have loved, the gorgeous color of Indian skin”. It may prove difficult, however, to change societal perceptions of beauty. From The Christian Science Monitor:

Skin color matters in India, a fact made clear by the adjectives used in personal ads seeking spouses. Suitors use keywords such as “dusky,” a euphemism denoting dark skin, or “wheatish,” meaning one is light-skinned, to indicate their complexions… Being darker-complected has traditionally been considered an impediment to finding a good partner…

Sales in skin-lightening creams are up by 17 percent from the previous year, reported marketing firm Nielsen Company late in 2009. One Indian advertising executive, who worked on a skin-whitening campaign and wished to remain anonymous, explained the growth by saying that “being fair is seen as a passport to getting the ideal partner.” These attitudes are also reflected in India’s thriving film industry.

“In Bollywood, there is a premium on being fair. Dusky actresses … aren’t considered glamorous,” says filmmaker Jag Mundhra.

Mr. Mundhra, is more hopeful about the future. “The economic changes have meant that India no longer sees itself as a third-world country. This newfound pride will help us accept our own skin color.”