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Beauty & Colourism

“White Is Beautiful” Hasn’t Been Overcome Yet

Unfortunately, even in 2021 dark skin prejudice still alive in Indian society, influencing the way people perceive each other and their potential success, but most of all damaging physical and mental health.

skin nuance still dominates indians’ value

It’s an old heritage coming from back in time: “colourism” dates back to colonial times and has been empowered by beauty ideals coming from pop culture, in advertising and social media. The “white is beautiful” prejudice is very common in Indian and African society, in which a lot of people still believe that skin nuances can determine their value and potential. “During our workshops we discovered that colourism affected not only people’s confidence, especially women, but also their relationships, their marriage and even their job” says Kavitha Emmanuel, director of non-profit Women of Worth.

Nevertheless, despite the social and psychological damage, the pressure to stick to a pre-existing beauty ideal means that whitening skin products are still on the market and a significant number of Indians still use it. Research showed that out of a sample of 2.000 people in Mumbai, 37.6% used skin whitening products, going towards short and long term potentially toxic side effects.

So, how can brands that were longtime allies of colourism fight this kind of discrimination? Some brands started taking over greater responsibilities on products and communication. First came L’Oréal and Unilever, announcing they will withdraw and reposition some product lines. Will this be enough to eradicate such an old and anachronistic prejudice? And how long will it take?