Does fair mean beautiful?

India’s appetite for skin whitening creams is huge and growing. According to an article by Shantanu Guha Ray, sales are outstripping both Coca Cola and tea. Products with names like ‘Fair and Lovely’ and ‘White Perfect’ are selling by the million, and men are increasingly getting involved.

And it’s not just India – similar products are popular in many parts of Africa too. It seems ironic given that many fair-skinned Americans and Europeans use tanning salons and ‘fake tan’ cream to darken their skin.
So why are people so concerned about their skin colour? This blogger says that having darker skin in India is considered ugly, and that people aspire to marry someone fairer than themselves. This blogger says tanned skin with white skin, is associated with having the money to go on holiday, and darker skin with labouring outdoors.

Is the media and advertising to blame? Ads like the one above sell the idea that having lighter skin makes you successful at work and attractive to men, as this blogger points out . Is television dominated by fair-skinned people? Would you ever change your skin colour and why?

24 Responses to “Does fair mean beautiful?”

  1. 1 MINA
    March 24, 2010 at 14:26

    so,, im considered ugly in India.. i didnt know that

  2. 2 patti in cape coral
    March 24, 2010 at 14:33

    I remember this subject from before. At that time you guys posted an Indian commercial with two equally foxy guys, one dark skinned and the other light skinned, with the light skinned one having more success, of course. Is TV dominated by white people? I dont’ know, I rarely watch TV anymore. I would venture to say it’s definitely dominated by beautiful people who are thin and strangely, all resemble each other. Would I ever change my skin color? Not on purpose. I’m usually fairly pale (for a Hispanic woman) in the winter, and tan and freckly in the summer.

    Incident: When I was a nurse in Chicago, I was talking to my mother in Spanish on the work phone and my co-worker overheard me, who happened to be a black woman. When I was done, she said “I didn’t know you were Spanish, I thought you were a lucky sister!”

  3. 3 steve
    March 24, 2010 at 14:57

    I wish people in India were informed that white people in the west, especially in the US, are obsessed about appearing tan. Where I live, there are tannin salons every other block. The new healthcare reform is actually placing a 10% federal tax on tanning involving exposure to light (not spray tans).

  4. 4 Julie P
    March 24, 2010 at 15:41

    There was a time in US history where having white skin was the mark of beauty. Wealthy women would wear rice powder to make themselves even fairer than they really were. I am going to venture that having fair skin at the time was also a socioeconomic status symbol. Having fair skin also meant that the fair skinned person was not working in the field or anywhere outside where they could get a tan or a sunburn, unlike the working classes. My guess is that may be part of what is taking place in India.

  5. 5 Cabe UK
    March 24, 2010 at 15:48

    @ Patti –
    Patti I agree but I think it’s more the case of ‘Bollywood’ and the Indian film industry being dominated by white and fairer skin more than TV ?…

    Bit of a shame really because Indian’s and African’s wanting to be white are missing a fundamental survival point, and that is that they need their skin colour to protect them from the sun in their part of the world… Whitening will probably ultimately cause them their lives with skin cancer etc… ??

    • 6 patti in cape coral
      March 24, 2010 at 19:00

      @Cabe – You’re probably right. I wonder if this a media issue more than anything. I think if you ask the average male what he likes in women, and the answer will most likely be variety!

  6. March 24, 2010 at 16:37

    Unfortunately skin colour plays such an important role in many countries. This is especially true in India! The fairer the girl(in terms of skin colour), the greater her chances of finding an eligible husband. The beauty of the girl is equated with the shade of white. This is a very sad commentary as India is a great country. Hopefully this will change. Colour is only skin deep. There are so many other factors which mould a person’s character. One should be looking for those inner, beautiful aspects rather than concentrating on superficial ‘gloss’.

  7. 8 nora
    March 24, 2010 at 17:34

    The skin whitening cream in India is like the hair relaxer in the USA. Billions of dollars are spent on relaxer full of dangerous caustic chemicals to take the kink out of hair. I’m glad foot binding has gone out of fashion. Hopefully, painful relaxers and whitening creams will go the way of powdered wigs and foot binding–but then I am an optimist.

    Like Patti, people make different ethnic assumptions about me depending on the season. No whitening creams for me, no tanning booths either. Variety is the spice of life.

    March 24, 2010 at 17:53

    I thought so when I was young and ignorant – it is my hope that India is not at that stage when the rest of the world think its an experienced and learned country. I have watched bolywood too and didn’t find it bringing out the romantic ideals of India. Whats wrong with your color? Nothing really though I think too when people develop a penchant for the green card end up going for fancy escapes that can only be said to result in ugliness that I fear even in the west would not appreciate.

    Being a western has nothing to do with skin color – its more about culture and even if you want to portray yourself as rich, this will end up as a contradiction of the reality.

    Indians should stop acting and get serious and real. That’s likely to be the real selling and telling point.

  9. March 24, 2010 at 18:12

    Skin color means nothing to me. I’m classified as a white guy, but handsome men and beautiful women mostly turn heads in any crowd by simply carrying themselves with confidence and with great body manners and decent body language.

    Skin color is perhaps the last on my list of qualities that I deem of importance.

    Attitude, atheletic ability, good looks, smarts, and sense of humor all trump skin color.


  10. March 24, 2010 at 18:25

    All is vanity,try being what you are,instead of what you are not.

  11. 12 Guillermo
    March 25, 2010 at 01:14

    In the Scrolls of Qumram, and it what is called the apocryphal Genesis there is the story of Sarah. The descripiton that the officers of Pharaon make of Sarah is so descriptive that the Paharon of Egypt in that time falls in love. The translation from the hebrew mentions that she had a fair skin, and it goes on.
    The beauty for Pharaon is precisely this description. We are talking of almost 3 thousand years. But the people with white skin like the people with tanned or darker skin. We can conclude that it is the propaganda to sell and the governments that permit this kind of subliminal agression. But when money is involved the darkest skin of the commerce does not see any difference.

  12. 13 Tan Boon Tee
    March 25, 2010 at 04:49

    What is beauty that is only skin-deep?

    The world does not need fair skin nerds, what we seriously lack are fair hearted humans.

  13. March 25, 2010 at 05:02

    It is a shame that this mindset still exists in society today. India is not alone, In many parts of the world fair means beautiful, right here in America this belief persists. I believe this is a psychological vestige of colonialism imposed by white Europeans.

    Why is fair beautiful and not Dark.?, many are still carrying that Yoke around thier neck. India and the rest of the world should be happy with who they are, fair or dark!. Those that still bear the scar of self hatred imposed by unking people need to rid themselves of that lie that was told over five hunred years ago.

    I know it is easier said than done when fair is still being being seen by societies at large and dark people are treated differenly or seen as threats.
    It is time we put this behind us. People should be judge by thier character and not thier skin color.
    I willl now end my tirade

  14. 15 Jagjit Singh Mukandpuri India
    March 25, 2010 at 05:40

    I think fair means fine not beautiful. Beauty does not come with the colour of skin.

  15. March 25, 2010 at 09:03

    Actually this problem is not exclusive to India. Some African-Americans and Asians think with this mind set too. From where I’m from, dark-skinned people are usually farmers and laborers–those work under the sun. So having fairer skin can be a symbol of status. And women with fairer skin usually tend to look prettier because their face looks cleaner than those with darker complexion.

  16. 17 steve
    March 25, 2010 at 13:55

    I wonder if the skin cancer they get from the bleach will look good?

    Do people think anymore these days?

  17. 18 Subhash C Mehta
    March 25, 2010 at 14:35

    ‘Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’–so goes the saying. ‘Therefore’, it is a matter of personal liking/opinion; ‘however’, there’s no denying the fact, that, fair-complexion with blond hair do add to a woman’s beauty, provided that woman already has good features and figure. As for figure, it again is a matter of personal liking/opinion; some like the skinny and some the curvy ones.

  18. 19 Neil (T'dad)
    March 25, 2010 at 15:31

    I think people should learn more about health and being kept clean and groomed and when they know the facts and details about life they’d be able to understand true beauty.

  19. 20 Ronald Almeida
    March 25, 2010 at 16:34

    Companies manufacturing whitening creams are cashing in on the inferiority complex of those who have been manipulated by their past Brahmin and colonial pseudo western attitudes.

  20. 21 angelica adams
    March 25, 2010 at 17:10

    It is interesting to note how Wm Shakespeare felt about women and skin tone. If we are to judge by his sonnets to the Dark Lady the Bard preferred women who were not the beauty standard of his time Queen Elizabeth was fair skinned with red hair “My mistress eyes are nothing like the sun If snow be white her breasts are dun If hair be wires black wires grow on her head” Shakespeare is in love with his dark lady and she was undoubtedly an inspiration in his writings We do not know the identity of the Bard’s dark lady Was she Jewish? A Spanish Moor or African? What does it matter? Shakespeare made his dark beauty immortal in his sonnets Ladies of India take note there are men who will love you no matter what your skin color

  21. March 25, 2010 at 22:25

    How Your Race Affects The Messages You Get « OkTrends

    According to this article, in the US most men (at least those dating online) would rather not date black women. In many western countries the ideal female beauty is fair skinned, blond haired and blue eyed.

    The concept of what is beautiful has changed over the years and from country to country. Class has often been used to artificially determine beauty and many tend to associate higher class with lighter skin, hair and eyes.

    In every country and society women strive to meet often unrealistic ideals of beauty and will pay money, and even undergo surgery to become what society thinks is beautiful.

    Women who don’t naturally fit the current stereotype of beauty often have to choose, do you try to meet that stereotype? or do you accept yourself the way you are and decide that there is more to you than meets the eye? Most women probably do a bit of both.

    As a black woman it occurred to me years ago that I would never be a size zero blond with blue eyes so I learned to love my chocolate curves, I may not have the same pool of men to pick from as a blond of similar attractiveness, but on the positive side all the superficial men who would only date a woman who is light skinned and blond have already been weeded out for me :))

  22. 23 Ronald Almeida
    March 26, 2010 at 12:11

    I am myself a brown Indian, I was in love with blond hair blue eyes and pink cheeks till I lived twenty years in Europe and had my fill. Now I really love dark and natural rural women.

  23. 24 Guillermo
    March 27, 2010 at 01:07

    There is quite a big problem with white skin. If they get to much sun, they wrinkle fast and cancer in the face is common. If they don´t, the lack of vitamin D makes some trouble in their bodies. The people that are tanned their skin is like leather. The advantage of brown, dark or another colour has the advantage of being protected from the sun. Although as humans, and the lack of the layer of ozone makes no difference in the colour of the skin. It is just a matter of
    “gusto” and that is a condition of man. The industry of cosmetics tends to whiten the skins of people, telling many lies on their products. The truth is whatever you smear in your face or body is against nature itself. The pores are clogged, pespiration is locked and the body gets venom from all of these.
    A fair skin has a big trouble with the sun. The solution is to to bathe in full moon and maybe with this they will get a whiter skin.

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