“She’s pretty, but dark.” “Use this face mask, it’ll make you a shade lighter.” “Don’t go out in the sun for too long or you’ll become darker.” “Bright colours don't suit dark skin.” Ask any dusky or dark skinned person, and we’ll give you a plethora of comments and unsolicited advice we’ve received to tackle what seems like a “curse” bestowed upon us. For the longest time ever, the message was loud and clear –– fair meant beautiful.
Growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s meant Indie music and living a life that was on the brink of technology, but not quite there yet. It also meant an unnecessary spotlight on fairness. As a country, this was the era where our obsession with light skin was at its peak. I recall a nine-year-old me watching several fairness advertisements that blatantly portrayed one message –– my skin colour was a no-go.
Nine and naive, I related to the character’s ‘before’ version –– albeit she was slathered in foundation four times darker than her actual shade. The takeaway from the ad? I needed to magically become *cough* fair and lovely *cough* to achieve happiness, love, and success. I believed that my skin tone determined my future and why wouldn’t I? The discrimination was already instilled within, so what’s a few advertisements and celebrities that reinforced it.
I was one of the darkest in my class (which says a lot cause I am not even the darkest shade on the skin card spectrum). I was the darkest in my friend circle. I was darker than most of my cousins.
Whether it was judgement wrapped in uncomfortable jokes or just passing comments, I was well aware that my skin colour bothered people around me. From strangers to family members, dark-skinned jokes would come by the dozen. Sometimes it was out there, most of the time it was subtle. Did it bother me? Yes. Did I show it? No. Why? Because I was made to believe that it was probably true. I would loathe my skin colour. The worst was when my raging teenage hormones forced me to confront my crush about my feelings only to get rejected because “he didn’t like dark girls”. That was it, and post that all comments simply got funnier with time.
After 18 years of being told that dark or dusky skin was a total turn off, how did I manage to unlearn it and accept my skin tone? Ironically, it took a bunch of pale, white-skinned people tanning on the beach and risking the chance of skin cancer to obtain darker skin like mine to change my perception. Out went the home remedies and chemical heavy pastes that promised to alter something only my genes had control over. I never realised how damaging this negative view of my skin colour was until I finally accepted it.
As Indians, we have an unhealthy obsession with fair skin no matter which part of the world we’re based in. In 2019, the fairness cream market in India was reportedly worth approximately INR 3,000 crores and according to WHO, as of 2019 half of India’s skincare market was skin lightening products. Till date, home remedies for light skin or fair skin is one of the most Googled skincare queries. I have even come across makeup assistants at mall counters who try to sell me foundation shades two or three times lighter than my skin tone. Although the narrative is slowly changing, light skin unfortunately still continues to reign the ‘desirability’ chart –– dropping the word ‘fairness’ from a label doesn’t change the objective of the product –– it’s still a skin lightening concoction. Things will only get better when we as a society change our mindset.
Tatiana Dias’ skincare journey began all thanks to her long-standing battle with acne. Then on, she learnt to be comfortable in her own skin, yet give it all the TLC possible — and that’s what started her serious love affair with beauty writing. She’s written for magazines such as Femina, ELLE India, and Vogue India.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this journal are those of the authors and are for information purposes only and not medical advice. Further, they do not reflect the opinions or views of Aminu Wellness Pvt Ltd or any of its directors. Any content provided by the author(s) are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone, or anything.