Fairness and the Indian Woman

cropped from :Image:Races2.jpg 1820 drawing of...Image via Wikipedia
Mirror, Mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?

Even Snow White and the Evil Witch were plagued, it seems, by the same obsession as Indian Women, to be the fairest of them all.

While the story is silent on what Snow White used to be, white; desi bloggers are all up in arms about this issue. Every blogger worth her post has her views online.

For a long time I refrained from this clichéd topic, but a recent comment from fellow blogger Divija got me thinking. And here are my two cents

1. Societal pressure to be fair is wrong. Just like the pressure to be a certain size, to look/dress a certain way, or behave a certain way is wrong. We all should have the right to be happy in the skin we are in, in more ways than one.

2. However if an individual chooses/feels/thinks that being fairer is going to make her/him happier, we are no one to sit in judgment of these people. It is a personal choice. We don’t seem to condone people who get surgeries/botox to look younger, for bigger assets or smoke to lose weight. But it is politically incorrect these days to publicly own to using these creams.

3. Consumers who are using these creams need to start making informed choices. A lot of times I read articles of fairness creams that have been banned abroad for containing hydroqunonine, but they are freely available here. The jury is out on the safety of this chemical, so do your research and know what you are getting into.

4. Fair & Lovely ads have attracted a lot of controversy since the last few years. It is funny how the girl learns to smile & apply make-up as well as a result of using the cream in the after pictures. Jokes apart, yes some of the ads are offensive to darker skinned people and yes, they deserve to be pulled off the air. But they are selling a product and just exploiting a myth that runs deep in our culture itself. Nothing else will explain why fairness/whitening/radiance boosting creams are the no. 1 sellers in skin care category across brands in India.

5. Cosmetic companies in India really need to buckle up when it comes to foundation shades. Most offer only a few choices, some even sell foundations with pink undertones (that look orange on our yellow toned skin). It embarrasses me that Indians girls living abroad have better access to cosmetics especially made for South Asian skin (Think Thevi cosmetics) than us.

6. Instead of ostracizing young girls who use these products, we need to deal with the men & their parents who refuse to take a bride unless she is fair.

7. These creams are not all that bad. They are sometimes useful to remove stubborn tans from arms and feet as a result of wearing sleeveless clothes or open shoes.

These are some of my random thoughts on this whole fairness issue. Do you agree or disagree? What has been your experience? 


  1. tanvi, guess u tuk my comment seriously :( hope i didnt hurt u. i thought i cud share that with u, so i did. If i was mean, pls forgive me...

  2. hey Divija, why wld i be hurt by what you said? It was not mean at all!! & I am certainly not hurt or anything with you..

    In fact I am glad you wrote tht comment coz it got me thinking.. and i wrote my two cents on it..

    So babes, no offense taken & no offense meant! all cool sweets! & express yrself and comment all you want..

    The net is a free medium of expression, which is why I don't moderate comments on my blog..

  3. OMG .. this is the thing I have myself dealt with.
    (to give you a background , em a NC 40-42) ..
    in high school ,I was da only one in my grp who didnt have a BF ,this didnt disturb me in any way , jus becz I neva wanted to divulge in these complicated relation at that time .
    one day a frnd said " palak. tu gori ho ja, fir tere ko bhi BF mil jayega"

    I was so fumed over that comment !!bloody #$% !
    who are yu to temme that ?
    and dont ask me what I did to her , I showed her whole world in another 10 min , she didnt dare to say anythin regarding my color afta that and neither did any of my so called frnds .

    I feel you should stand for yerself , never , NEVER let anybody tell you how what shud you do .

    not everyone has same color ,same ht. , same views or as a matter of fact , same qualities
    each person is different, respect of what you are and others will follow suit :)

  4. @ Palak: That is very brave of you Palak to stand up to your friends. Most people just take in what ever the world says, and don't ever express their opinions.

    I am happy that at such an young age you are filled with a healthy sense of self-esteem! I wish more people get inspired by you to do the same!

  5. I enjoyed reading this post Tanveer and i agree agree (i meant to write that twice btw)
    I'm so sick of the fairness issue in India..it's downright silly n hypocritical. Hell, I sometimes wish i was one or two shades darker..would the "fair" ones find that offensive?
    N Palak..good that u stood up for yrself. U dont need a dumb friend like that.

  6. I know this is the saddest part among Indian girls. I feel sick when I sometimes read the matrimonial section" wanted FAIR, blah blah...". One of my friends has lived with this inferiority complex because of this fairness thing. No matter what anyone says about her beautiful features or silky hair,she is only worried that she has a darker skin tone.And she must have tried all sorts of fairness creams by now. I can't say that her colour hasn't improved but I am scared about the amount of chemicals going inside your skin to change your melanin colour.

    Regarding foundations, I know what you are saying. I wish companies come out with loads of foundation shades. I am still confused whether LAkme's marble suits me better or pearl or a mix of both. lol!! And buying Revlon's foundations feels like burning your pocket.

    And one of my advertising teachers told me that fair and lovely is sold maximum in South India. Imagine?

    @ Palak: I am so proud of you. Way to go babes! I think you must really thank your parents for keeping this skin colour rubbish away from you. :)

  7. @ Cynthia: I too agree, agree with you. We don't seem to condemn those who change their hair color from the natural Indian black to Western blonde or those who wear colored contacts as being ashamed of their Indianness or melanin content in hair & eyes.. then why single out people who want to change their skin color.. It is an independent choice and people have the right to look the way they want to..

  8. @ Rati: Count me in too.. I have a very hard time buying foundations. Nothing seems to suit me. It's either too dark or too light..

    And you are right when you mention that Fair & Lovely is sold the most in South India. But I think that is partly because the sun is very harsh there and tans you very badly, and not because those women are ashamed of the skin they are born with.

    I remember going on a vacation there and came extremely back extremely tanned, even though i used a sun-block and spent very few hours in the sun. I looked like a completely different person.

  9. tanveer, i so agree with you about the lack of foundation shades! most companies that are available in india have the most pathetic range ever! plus with foundation, its all about getting the right shade! i earlier used to think that a particular shade of lakme souffle (forgot which one) was suiting me very well, but now i know how wrong i was! it makes me look orange, and now i am left with a brand new jar that i dont think i will use! next time i am heading to either mac or inglot to get the perfect shade. both have an excellent range of shades.

  10. @Rima: Sorry I somehow missed this comment by you.

    I agree. Most foundations in India are either too pale or too yellow or too pink. It's almost like they just can't figure out what our skin color is like. & to top it all, SA almost always show foundations in a shade lighter than what would match me perfectly.

    Because it is believed that the main purpose of foundation is to make your skin lighter - hence the lighter the shade, the better. I have now actively begun to ask SAs to show me foundation in a shade darker as well. Invariably that is one that always matches me better.


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