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Is Advertising The Sole Cause Behind Indian’s Obsession With Fair Skin?

Switch on to any music channel during prime-time and one cannot help but notice the plethora of commercials that are focused on one pivotal agenda – how to get a fair skin tone.


Switch on to any music channel during prime-time and one cannot help but notice the plethora of commercials that are focused on one pivotal agenda – how to get a fair skin tone.

From skin bleach, skin whiteners to moisturizers, sunscreens, face creams, soaps and even talcum powder! Yes talc, how absurd but yes talc. Add to it the men’s range of skin whitening commercials.

Message is crystal clear – dark skin leads to low self-esteem while fair skin represents beauty and success.

Oh Lord, imagine the tremendous pressure this exerts on a teen, a preteen or an unmarried girl who is hammered with this perception, again and again, every single day. The entire generation would grow up with this perceived notion that those with dark complexions are inferior to the fair ones.

The big question is, is advertising the sole cause behind our obsession with fair skin?

Before you say an easy yes, let’s check a few facts

  • Goddess Kali is worshiped for her intense fury. She is named ‘Kali’ for that matter, what more is there to say after that? Shiva’s anger has the power to destroy the whole universe and Krishna’s cunningness is legendary. All of them are depicted as having dark skin while Durga, Saraswati and Lakshmi have glowing fair skin.
  • This prejudice got further deep-rooted during the British era, when white rulers were positioned as superior. The color ‘white’ personified sophistication, elite status and hence was an aspiration.
  • Today, it’s not uncommon to fling mindless, casual terms like madrasi, south Indian , gori chitti north Indian, koyle jaise kali hai, she is lucky he married her etc., and this is how racism is unfolding in modern India today.

Priyanka Chopra was turned down for a role recently because of her brown skin tone, she admits that it affected her. But the fact remains that she has achieved everything that she set her mind on, despite the color of her skin.

So hell no, these ads should not be blamed alone for spreading racism. It’s in our own mind. We are a generation that has grown up with specific notions about skin color – that fair skin is desirable and dark skin is a problem to be corrected. It is we who are racist towards people from our own country.

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Racism runs deep in our own blood and this is getting expressed in our consumer behavior. The advertising industry is no-doubt exploiting the opportunity like never before. For the survival of this multi-million dollar industry, now they depend on ensuring that Indians continue to desire fair skin. The corporate advertisement in India is leaving no stone unturned, they are broadcasting this message quite effectively and aggressively.

Some takeaways

  • Fair is not always lovely. We must all start believing this.
  • Pressures will exist and it’s upon all of us to make those pressures seem not so important to our daughters and also sons.
  • “I’ve achieved what I’ve achieved and skin color has nothing to do with it—in fact, it might have been an asset.” – Priyanka Chopra

Dark skin is not a crime and fair skin is not a prize. It’s just melanin!

We want to hear what you think.


About the Author


Die hard romantic, self confessed perfectionist, a really really bad cook and hopefully a writer in the making, that describes me !! Mother of two absolutely adorable kids, wife to a caring husband and daughter to read more...

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