The media and the market are filled with products and their advertisements that claim to make a woman look better by giving them a fair complexion or a thin waist. Advertisements depicting a fair skin and a thin figure bias have become a common phenomenon.

People always talk about how all skin types and body shapes are equally beautiful, but do they really believe it? The fact that the high preference for fair skin has resulted in the market for fairness creams touching Rs 3000 crore indicates that the answer to this question is ‘no’.

For a very long time skin lightening creams were promoted by their advertisements showing dusky women facing problems while getting married or looking for jobs or they were simply mocked because of their dark complexion. Has this led to the prevalence and strengthening of the stereotype that only a light skinned woman is beautiful, completely neglecting and disrespecting women who are dark?

Indian mentality tends to have an obsession with the white skin, as people continue to chase a fair complexion. Media plays a role in imposing this idea of beauty on the gullible masses as seen in a popular fairness cream commercial where a dusky girl, once offered a fairness cream, gains confidence and success overnight. Watching such commercials, are viewers to believe that dark girls are incapable of becoming successful? Is a fair skin the key to developing a confident self?

Many women battle self esteem issues due to these flawed standards of beauty that are dominant in our society. In the world of modeling and acting, where cut throat competition prevails, losing an opportunity due to dark complexion is every dusky actor’s worst nightmare.

Speaking on the issue, model and actor Manisha Saxena recalls an incident where she was denied a role in a TV show because she is dusky and the makers of the show wanted to cast a fair skinned actor. She says: “How does it matter whether I am dark or fair? What truly matters is how I act and how talented I am. Every woman should have confidence in her own complexion and body type and when she does, she would not feel the need to buy such products.”

Members of Nirantar- Centre for Gender and Education are of the view that the fairness cream industry is “racist, thriving on the insecurities and inferiority of its consumers.” Such products negatively influence identity, promoting a “homogenous idea of beauty” thereby discouraging diversity.

They believe that by depicting a fair skin as a means for a girl to get a better job or a better husband, such commercials “affirm patriarchal values”. These commercials make its consumers believe that “this is the product you need to move up the social ladder”.

These false beauty parameters have corrupted children’s young and developing minds as a children’s book labeled a fair woman beautiful and a dark woman ugly.

In order to combat the stereotype created by most of these beauty products and their commercials, Dove launched a ‘real beauty’ campaign whose major innovation was to use ads that featured real women. The message behind the campaign was that women’s unique differences should be celebrated and physical appearance should become a source of confidence instead of being an insecurity.

The Indian society is not the only one enslaved by this mentality as this is an issue affecting many parts of the world. All fairness creams have been banned in Ghana, in West Africa. While it was a bold step, it has proven to be very successful as now the highest selling beauty product is ‘Dark and Lovely’, a brand that prides itself on the beauty of black people and refuses to fall prey to colourism.

In another recent advancement, London has made a decision to ban all body shaming advertisements in a bid to promote body positivity. Is it time for the Indian society to get rid of its unrealistic standards of beauty?