Open up your mind and your potential reaches infinity…

Just a couple of weeks ago I came across a fairness cream ad being posted, and then shared several times on FB. Most of those who shared, attached their valid comments to ridicule the clip.Thank God the fb community in which I socialise are ‘enlightened in this matter’.

But I wonder if we really felt the serious need to go beyond this condemnation and create awareness based on scientific facts about the psychological and physical ill effects of these fairness creams.We probably are not aware of the magnitude of the menace both in terms of their popularity and then the huge health costs that may result due to it’s prolonged use for over three, four or five decades.

Such ads are in no way a rarity. This particular clip was of a couple of minutes. If you happen to click to the telebrands channel or even some of the renowned entertainment channels, you may see them running half an hour ads on fairness creams. I have been observing these ads since the time these private tv channels have cropped up almost a decade ago.

The whole psychological process through which they create grounds for their product is worth a research. A good 10-15 minutes are dedicated to first narrate the ills and curse associated with the dark skin—from unable to make friends in the childhood, to getting a good job , to ultimately unable to grab an enviable rishta.

And then is offered the panacea of a glamourously packed, distatefully named cream pack. How do these cream applications transform in the ads—a dark skinned ‘bhains’ complexioned (buffalo complexion attained by the make up using a shoe polish ) low self esteemed girl in to a glowing ‘gori’ gaye (cow complexion) is a tragically comical  sight to witness and worth the torture of a half hour long ad. (This was a comment I heard from an uncle years ago).

Alas how does this skin dark and cadaveric textured on an ‘always rejected’ girl transforms, in weeks into a radiant moonlight complexioned much ‘sought after’ princess! And lo, there comes the ‘prince charming’ who had been hunting for such a ‘fair beauty’ for ages. And soon the wedding bells ring.

Are these manufacturers and the advertising agencies all that smart? Who they think are they bluffing? I cant help but feel disgusted of what intellectual capacity do they estimate of us viewers to possess when making such ads or creams. They think we all are idiots inhabiting this earth.

But the sad state of affairs is that they serve as a’ perfect recipe’ to turn any low self esteemed girl, unsure of herself into a nervous wreck. One sees a lot of mediocres around us who actually get swayed by the actors and actresses endorsing those products and their claims.They feel compelled to actually spend a bulk of their their energies and money on these products with an eye to start looking like the ‘beauty’ who’s endorsed for that cream in the ad..Then there is those class of pseudoenlightened who secretly try the products in a hope that there must be some grain of truth in their claims. After all how much can those creams or ads tell lies?

Unfortunately, for generations, a bias has worked in our subcontinent towards a fair complexion. We may have emblazoned the mantra ‘without distinctions of caste, creed or colour’ and we may have pioneered the world’s opposition to apartheid, but the fact remains that we are a notoriously colour-biased people.

“It is a pity that the Article 15 in the Indian Constitution, which lists discriminations on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth, has left out colour. ” mentioned a placard I saw in India.

“The advertisements are everywhere – over bus stops, on giant billboards, interspersed throughout mainstream magazines, in stores, on TV…almost everyday I run across some Bollywood celebrity advertising some shit that is supposed to make you pasty.

It’s shameful. Sickening. And the actors (using that term loosely –if you’ve ever seen a Shahrukh Khan movie you understand) that endorse these products ought to feel ashamed and beg for the forgiveness of their fellow Indian citizens for insulting them.’ Writes Wil Robinson in his blog .

In South East Asia, not only women but men are also keen on becoming fair. Asian men no longer believe that fairness is only for women. Desi men, as well as their counterparts in other Asian countries, including Korea and Japan are turning to fairness cream.

Several times I did even write, out of rage, in the newspaper’s letter to the editor or directly to the TV channels or even to the companies. But to no avail. Not just about the vulgar ads, but the cries on fairness creams and their harmful effects too, seem to have fallen on deaf years . No letter ever got published nor any response of acknowledgement from the channels or the manufacturing company.

Probably I rub irrelevant and petty issues a bit too much.

I talked  to a friend journalist and a TV person, and he explained this is the way they earn good ’revenue’ to keep their channels on air.

Attempts to debate the menace during private parties does lead most of the times to a fruitful discussion. But a few times I have to eat back my own words with reactions I had never anticipated.

About three occaisions I have recieved the following nasty answers not from aged aunties but young girls aspiring for a ‘prince charmng’ by remarking:

“Auntie, you probably dont feel the need so you dont realise the desperation behind those who arent that fortunate.If some one tries to get fairer by spending money then what’s the harm.”

Or even mention the reference to various matrimonial ads, “we  find people asking for a fair skinned wife for their able son.”

“If you were lucky with a wheatish complexioned to have gotten a gora guy doesn’t mean all women will.  Why didn’t you choose a dark person yourself.”

Well what do you say to those arguments—I never chose the one I chose for his complexion. But who has the patience to argue with their illogical logic. Sometimes one has to really hold on tight to ones self-control to avoid an unpleasant debate.

And then my straight dagger like talk leaves a lot of these women wounded. You talk of unfairness of the ads or color discrimination and they make you feel guilty of having a fair-complexioned husband.

But yes I know how can one be ridiculed for one’s complexion, being repeatedly labelled ‘kaali’ by some disgruntled aunts of my husband’s, out of love for their ‘gora’ nephew. And about their own complexions…let’s not go there. 🙂

The most serious and basic ethical issue of fairness creams advertising is making false or misleading statements.

In a test at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Honk Kong on 36 fairness cream brands made all over the world, it was found that eight of them made in China and Taiwan had more mercury contents than prescribed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The study results show that fairness creams sellers overstate the product benefits, which actually are not delivered. Results showed congruity between the literate and illiterate, poor and middle class girls responses in terms of product performance and social issues raised by fairness creams TV Ads.

Most creams contain harmful ingredients that can result in side effects ranging from irritation, allergies to sun sensitivity. It may be advisable to test out a fairness cream by using it first on a small portion of your skin to find out your sensitivity to the ingredients.Even creams branded as ayurvedic also contain chemical and harmful alloy of metals.

Mental and emotional health can be corroded by the steady destruction of self-esteem and demeaning to women and further promote the already rampant complexion prejudices.

These unashamed advertisements of products are an assault on the fragile minds of women in what is called the ‘marriageable age’. The unceasing flaunting of cosmetics with the supposed quality of lightening the complexion would have been aesthetically vulgar if it was not also a matter of serious psycho-sociological or health concern.

Thanks to a great number of people around the world who have a fixation with the fair skin that this industry flourishes.

For generations, a bias has worked in our subcontinent towards a fair complexion. We may have emblazoned the mantra ‘without distinctions of caste, creed or colour’ and we may have pioneered the world’s opposition to apartheid, but the fact remains that we are a notoriously colour-biased people. It is a pity that the Article 15 in the Indian Constitution, which lists discriminations on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth, has left out colour. “

Although Government, Consumers and Industry self regulations could be used to regulate these unethical advertising practices in both India and Pakistan. But due to absence of rules and regulations against deceptive advertising, raising the issues by consumers in front of government or regulatory bodies, absence of the consumer groups, widespread illiteracy and lack of awareness in the consumers about their rights thwarts any efforts towards it’s realisation..

The only possibility is the industry’s self regulation, which could work well to protect the consumers and society from the negative aspects of these advertisements.

In the contemporary world most of the organizations talk about the corporate social responsibility, but in case of fairness creams television advertisements, there is a clear divergence between the social welfare and companies economic goals.

It is time that the media, the business corporates and even the concerned health activists take up this cause not only to stop the ads but also create awareness about the unfairness of the ’fairness creams, and then plead for the censorship of this ethical and psychological vulgarity.

Ilmana Fasih
2 January 2011
INDIA: According to the the information website for India top 10 fairness cream companies include the giants of the cosmetic and toiletry industry—Fair and Lovely, Garnier, Olay, Ponds , Nivea among the top 5.
The Rs 650-crore fairness creams market is led by Hindustan Lever’s Fair & Lovely which has a dominant 75-80 per cent share. Other significant players are CavinKare’s Fairever, Godrej Fair Glow, and Emami Naturally Fair, all of which spend significantly on television advertising.
Fair & Lovely’s television ad spend for the October-December 2002 period was Rs 3.3 crore, Emami’s was Rs 2.5 crore, Fairever’s Rs 2.2 crore and Godrej FairGlow, Rs 20 lakh in the same period, according to media tracking agency Current Opinion & Future Trends.
According to trade analysts in India, men’s fairness products is valued at Rs 30 million, and constitutes 35 percent of the market.
PAKISTAN: ”Many renowned cosmetic stores say 80 percent of the customers demanded fairness creams. The demand was particularly high in girls.
A cosmetic shop owner Shahbaz Ahmed in Defense Housing Authority said that all his customers bought fairness creams to improve their complexion, irrespective of whether they had dark or fair complexion. “Not only women but men are also obsessed with becoming fair,” he said.
The popular , inexpensive creams in Pakistan are generally not from the big brands but from the small time companies and the risk of these creams having even more dangerous and unregulated ingredients.
The Ill Effects Of Skin Lightening or Fairness Creams
These beauty products aim to change melanin, a pigmenting agent that is determined from the time of our birth. No unnatural material can change melanin levels or whatever.
According to researchs done on these skin lightening products shocking revelations have come to light.
main ingredient of these fairness lotions is bleach, Hydroquinone, a chemical used in the fairness creams is actually a bleaching element which badly harms the skin.
At the most these creams contain sunscreens that help them prevent from further darkening of the skin.
Ingredients like koiic acid and retinoic acid make the skin more intolerant towards the sun’s harmful effects. Koiic acid is a derivative of Vitamin C and retinoic that of Vitamin A. Users can also have severe skin rashes if they keep on using it.
The high mercury levels are much more than the levels prescribed by the US FDA which may cause hazards even to the nervous system.
Some of the skin lightening products( especially the less expensive ones) contain strong steroids like cortico steroids and clobetasol propionate, which is strictly a prescription drug. The prescription-strength steroids help to give the costumers ‘better’ and ‘faster’ results but such products with steroids have the chances to suppress the body’s natural steroids. Using the creams with steroids may end up with some other side effects like permanent stretch marks, pimples, darkening of the skin, skin-allergy and disfiguration, etc.
Unlearn the myths :
Fairness creams can make you fair — All fairness cream or skin whitening creams are effective ony if the pigment is in the epidermis. If the pigment is deeper, the product canot help or make changes. Thus, fairness cream can help remove a tan or discoloration due to some pigment in the top layer of the skin. It cannot make a dark person fair.
Manufacturers list al their ingredients on the product label— This is not true. Manufacturers are not required by law to mention all the ingredients on the product label.
Fair skin is better than dark skin — Medically, dark skin is believed to be less vulnerable to skin diseases than light skin. More melanin in dark skins provides protection from the sun and, in turn, disease. Light skin contains less melanin and thus less protection.
Ayurvedic or herbal fairness creams have no chemicals — This is a myth. Only home remedies for fairness can be free of chemicals. All commercial products have chemical bases that give them the texture and consistency and preservatives that prevent them from going bad.
Herbal ingredients have no side effects — A person can be allergic to plant based herbal ingredients also. It is advisable that they apply the cream to a small area on their hands before using them.
Read more:
Addicted to fairness creams? Not fair – The Times of India

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