Beauty companies are rebranding their skin lightening products, but will this be enough to change deep-seated prejudices around skin tone?

The Black Lives Matter movement — thrust, once again, into the global consciousness this summer after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor — not only shined a light on racial injustice and police brutality, it also sparked vital conversations about racism in many industries, including beauty.

In countries across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, it brought a discussion of colorism — the denigration of those with darker skin tones, often by those of their own race — to the forefront.

Prejudice against darker skin has led to a thriving industry of whitening and lightening creams. The global skin-lightening industry is estimated to be worth $8.6 billion in 2020, and even taking into account the pandemic, it’s expected to reach $12.3 billion by 2027, according to Global Industry Analysts.

Beauty journalist Vasudha Rai, based in Delhi, India, believes true change lies in answering this central question: How can we change people’s aspiration for fair skin?

For starters, she says, feature dark-skinned women in beauty campaigns. “Fairness cream advertisements always show the model going five to seven shades lighter. If they are serious about change, they need a dark-skinned model who doesn’t become fairer by using their cream.”

She also says brands should offer more products to enhance the beauty of darker skin. “Beautiful skin doesn’t mean a few shades lighter,” says Rai. “It means more glow, clarity, elasticity.”

Ultimately, the path forward is to fight the systemic roots of colorism and racism.

Extracts from an Allure article (original). Published 14 September 2020.