Here is a call for action. I am not asking for money. In fact, I’m asking you to SAVE some.

I am beyond fed up with the bl***y colour crusade. If it’s not fairness, it’s lightening, brightening, or some such bullsh*t lotions and potions.

I know that many of us are closet users. In a group, we would all talk about how the colour of our skin doesn’t matter, but when we see the next crap advertisement, it at some level does.

Now if it’s just my self esteem or that of my peers, it wouldn’t upset me so much. It’s the effect these have on my daughter – O, and children of her age.

Every time one of these ads crop up on television, for my benefit, O parrots back to me my lecture: “Colour of your skin does not matter, no amma? Being fair is not being beautiful, no amma? Being happy and smiling is what makes us beautiful, no amma?”

And with every ‘no amma’, her eyes go back to the TV. There are messages far stronger than mine that are influencing her — if not in the media, then it’s her friends who talk about dark equals ugly, about how the fair classmates are ‘pretty’. We can probably still ignore this as child talk — but the parents turn out to be real scary.

One parent I met, mourned and groaned about how she wished her daughter, instead of her son, had been ‘blessed’ with lighter skin. I was seething: how I wish the children had been ‘blessed’ with a saner mother!

More than one person has asked R & me how O or N turned out fair (or fairer than us, because the two of us are totally brown).  ‘A tablespoon of bleach with milk, through the pregnancy,’ is what I offer as advice and answer.

Now, back to the potion-trap.

We all find excuses to fall for it – ‘my skin is dull, it’s not to become fairer’ or ‘it’s for the spots, not for the skin colour’…

I am not passing judgments here, especially since I’ve spent enough hours rubbing lemon on my neck and potatoes on my face, in my teens.

Anyways, it’s not about self esteem alone; it’s about the health hazards these lotions pose. The chemicals, bleach, metal that constitute the ‘skin lighteners’.

I can’t fight Hindustan Lever, John Abraham, Preity Zinta and Dhoni (why the heck does this guy need to be fair skinned?!).

All I want is a dozen mums or aunts or sisters to swear off these products to set an example to the little girls in their life. Just a dozen and I would be content.

Let’s do this:

Line up all the lotions in your shelf – am sure hidden amongst the foundations and moisturisers is a bottle or two self-esteem-murdering, elixir-of–false-promises. Pick up those tubes or tubs, and bin it.

I had this bottle on my shelf. A Nuxe brightening cream that was sent along with a PR, and which I did use a couple of times. It’s now wrapped in N’s dirty diaper and put to rest.

Next, either on a sticky post if your blog allows it, or on the header, or somewhere on your page, put up something on these lines: ‘TODAY I DID NOT WASTE MONEY ON A FAIRNESS PRODUCT’ or ‘TODAY I PROTECTED MY SELF ESTEEM FROM A FAIRNESS CREAM’  or any message that fits your thoughts best.

We owe this to our daughters, nieces and sisters. We owe it to ourselves.

The day the line goes missing, maybe a few of us will take the effort to pass on a reminder again.

To kick off my little campaign, I am tagging those of you with little girls in your life. So that’s TEESU, DEEPS, INBA, SHYAM, SOLILO, MMWORDJUNKIE, SANGI, SINDHU, APARAJITA, LAKHS, and the rest of the YOUs who believe strongly enough in this.


  1. Kiwi says:

    V, love the tag, and your thought, they are completely in sync with mine. However, have NO fairness rubbish producst with me at all (never have), so I will spread the tag another way.

  2. Vims says:

    Kudos for a well written piece. I came here from a link on Facebook and am going to post the tag on my wall! I wish more of us would follow suit!

  3. Hastobeme says:

    Totally with u on that one. But y is O carried away by it? She shd be totally glad that she doesnt require any of these pdts! And yes I dont use them either.

    BTW, can u believe, I try & avoid wearing lipstick / nail polish in front of my daughter cos shes sooooo crazy of them & wants to use them right away! Gosh!

    • UmmON says:

      sangi, my point is there is nothing to be glad, or not, about one’s skin tone. NOBODY ‘needs’ a skin lightener…

  4. UmmON says:

    Some interesting comments from facebook on this. Thanks girls for sharing your experiences:

    Sunita Srinivasan Good one Vani – I so totally agree. I have to recount this episode that happened last week – my younger one, all of 4 and half comes crying saying I want to be ‘white’… I was shell shocked… To my knowledge, the shade of the skin is never ever a topic of discussion at home…She was at home and Samyukta was not around so I was really puzzled what exactly happned. Turned out that dear hubby had left the telly on, and she saw some ad that had Katrina Kaif (an actress) endorsing a whitening cream. I patiently explained that it didn’t matter but she was in no mood to listen. We managed to divert her attention but now apart from what I see, I am very careful about the ads that Shreya and Samyukta shouldnt see on TV. Esp. lousy ads like these….I am avoiding the situation for now but I am really surprised how staying in India she could have come up with a thought like this.
    Today at 07:23 ·

    Sujayanti Bose-Dasgupta just too bad – in fact down right sad that we should feel the need to define ourselves by this rubbish
    Today at 07:51 ·

    Aruna Anand good one. I once went to a parlour for a facial and insisted I didnt want bleach . The girl comes with the potent stuff and starts . So I asked why ? I dont want it. She said Madam you have to be fair. I said I dont care about fair I am allergic to ammonia . I rather breathe than be fair. But somehow the logic was lost. Have you seen the male equivalent fair and Handsome?? By the way people in the west spend a lot of money to be dark skinned like us!!
    10 hours ago ·

    Vani Saraswathi yes, i get the same thing for ‘no bleach’. it’s bloody annoying! and the number of seemingly sane folks who endorse these products: john abraham, dhoni, mathew hayden (go figure), kajol. crazy.
    10 hours ago ·

    Shyamala Ramanathan-Edwards Obviously they do it for the money. I wish Kajol wouldnt, though… she’s so gorgeous, I’ve always liked her.
    10 hours ago ·

    Bairavi Vijay Hi Vani, thanks so much for the article. Growing up some people had the nerve to come and ask me if I were adopted or got “mixed up” in the hospital because how could parents like mine have a dark kid like me!!!! The incessant taunts and advices of these same ladies to use this product or some other made me shun these products from a very young age. I am quite blessed living in the US where now the topic is totally the opposite where most of my Caucasian friends comment as to how beautiful our skin is and wish they had a tanned skin like us :), albeit i agree that skin color should not be a morale booster or otherwise; Teju is quite confident in the way she feels and looks now; but the moment I land in India people are always commenting; “eppidi ivolava karthutaa; maybe amma maadri”
    6 hours ago ·

    Madhavi Chandrasekaran Get this..my friend’s drop dead gorgeous daughter gets taunted for her skin colour on the schoolbus right here in Canada..by?..who else but the punju kids born and raised in Canada..take an Indian out of India but never the stupid aspects of Indian mentality whereever they may reside!
    5 hours ago ·

    Poornima Trikkur Anantharaman Agree… these creams do such a good job…. of passing the wrong message to the present generation and the ads are just getting worse.
    9 hours ago

    Ranjani Sreedharan Totally with you Sunita… I did buy these creams in the past and junked them after keeping them untouched for 2-3 years… Now I have stopped buying 🙂

  5. Teesu says:

    Am proud to say have never used a fairness cream. Me, I think fair gets hype it does not deserve whereas ‘dark is beautiful’ is more often true. Skin colour change is stupid. Don’t people have anything better to work on?

  6. Deeps says:

    Done ,V. Whatever I have wanted to say is in my post. Hop by at your convenience. I’m with you in this much needed campaign.

    And tell O not to pay attention to thse ads. She is a beautiful girl and she will remain one,no matter what her skin colour is.

  7. Sindhu says:

    I have loads of these creams collecting dust on my bathroom counter, but none of them have been bought…(u know how we get it)…
    Today, I throw them all out!

  8. D says:

    Excellent post! How does one fight the marketing that multinationals spend crores on to sell their products?

    This also reminds me of a PG-mate I had when I was in college who had a peaches and creme complexion and who obsessed over it so much, it was jaw-dropping surprising!

    I have no fairness lotion, cream, mask in my closet. Honestly. Though I do use anti-blemish creams. And that’s only because, thanks to my genes, I’m the colour that most fairness creams avertise for. But trust me, the complexion (or is it the skin?) comes with its own set of problems. Over-exposure to sun doesn’t just lead to tanning, it leads to freckles, sun burns and other skin problems that I’m sure no one covets. So being fair isn’t always lovely!

    Also, I don’t know if you read this article in the paper about the side-effects of fairness creams that appeared in The Times of India on Jan 17. It’s an eye-opener!

  9. UmmON says:

    @teesu: i don’t buy these either. but do get quite a few ‘samples’, and a stray bottle or two finds its way home, and eventually, the dustbin.
    @deeps: i don’t think O has a complex or anything. but ppl make stupid remarks like ‘how come she is fair etc?’ and that gets on my nerves. as if that ought to be anyone’s defining description.
    @D: plenty being written on the harm etc, but not in a dedicated enough fashion. i haven’t read this particular piece tho.

    and folks, it’s just not india. that obsession is there even here… not all Arabs are light skinned as is often assumed. so the rest are trying desperately to catch up.

    the other big ‘thing’ people keep bring up is how in the West people like a tan, and try to darken their skin. But that means nothing — race/colour-based discrimination still continues.

  10. Sindhu says:

    Nice picture on the header…so cute!I liked the earlier one too…you have so many good ones of them together…I have almost stopped taking pics…I should take more Iguess
    (And now u know how much studying is happening)

  11. Renu says:

    Way back in late 70’s and early 80’s also, I dint believe int his muck that fair is beautiful..beautiful is what is inside not outside……I say and practice this in my life.

  12. Kamini says:

    Sigh….this is an affliction that is common around the world, in different forms, of course. Here in the West many people go crazy for “tanning” products, and they expose themselves to a whole different range of poisonous chemicals to “enhance” their appearance. But somehow I feel that our Indian obsession with fairness has a darker side to it. We try to become fair not merely to better our appearance, but also, our status, our marriageability, our desirability and acceptability in so many areas of life. And the worst part is that the rest of our society is complicit in this belief. I remember in my college days, girls would desperately rub Fair and Lovely cream over their faces, only to end up blotchy and patchy, they were forbidden to take part in sports because that meant they had to be out in the sun….Luckily for me my parents did none of this – I am quite dark-skinned, and happy with it. And my daughter has no skin color issues, either.

    • UmmON says:

      you bet about this marriage thing. my really pretty, dark skinned girl cousins always were considered a big liability, whereas some of us of slightly lighter tone and podgy features were thought ‘passable’ 🙂
      again, ppl keep equating obsession with tanning and fairness creams. it’s not the same. one is a fashion statement, the other is a need to fit in or be accepted! big difference.

I would love to hear your feedback. So write to me: umm.of.on@gmail.com

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s