India’s Snow White syndrome refuses to fade

Very few of the women who come to Sonia’s busy beauty parlor in a New Delhi suburb for a bridal makeover say: “Keep my skin tone.”

Most want to look at least two shades fairer. “I don’t blame them,” says Sonia, who uses only one name. “Just look around — film stars, models — most of our beauty icons are fair. We’ve all grown up in this culture where fairness is associated with beauty.”

Sonia has a memory common to many Indian women and men — an elderly female relative lamenting the fate of a dusky-complexioned child in the family. “Ladki aur kali” (a girl, and dark) — there could not be a worse fate.

“There are material consequences of skin color in India: in the family you may get an unequal share of food, clothes, toys as you grow up.” Delhi-based dermatologist Rashmi Sarkar says most of the whitening products are harmless and function as sunscreens, but the ones with depigmentation agents can be harmful.

Durga, who also goes by one name, cleans middle-class homes in the capital. She occasionally uses Fair and Lovely face wash. And retired schoolteacher Sharmila Roy has been a loyal user of Fair and Lovely for more than three decades.  Has it made her fairer?

“Not really,” she says.


Extracts from a NYdailynews article (original). Original article © DPA 2012. Published 25 June 2012.

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